Forgive me for gloating, but I told you so: Telepresence -- the next-generation video conferencing technology -- is quickly shifting toward a managed services model. The latest example involves Glowpoint Inc. launching its Telepresence Exchange Network. The move comes one month after Cisco Systems and AT&T announced a managed telepresence service for hotels.
So, is telepresence really an opportunity for small and midsize managed service providers? Or is this a market reserved for big telecom companies? Glowpoint's move provides some answers.
Glowpoint is seeking to be the Rosetta Stone of the telepresence industry. Generally speaking, telepresence systems from one company (say, Cisco Systems) often don't work with systems from another company (say, Hewlett-Packard). According to a company statement, Glowpoint's Telepresence Exchange Network (TEN) is:
Designed to solve the challenge of placing telepresence video calls between companies on different networks as well as enabling video calls to existing conference room and desktop environments. The TEN service enables customers to easily “plug” into a high quality, secure public interconnect service and perform business-to-business and network-to-network video calling.Frankly, Glowpoint's TEN service sounds too good to be true (though I haven't tested it). But Glowpoint's strategy could be an important tipping point for managed service providers exploring the telepresence industry. In theory, MSPs backing one telepresence system could partner with Glowpoint to reach MSPs that are backing other telepresence platforms.
The managed telepresence market still has some hurdles to clear. Few VARs and MSPs are trained to sell, service and support telepresence. And many companies can't afford telepresence conference rooms, which can cost $300,000 or more to deploy -- plus thousands more to operate each month.
Still, companies like LifeSize Communications are driving down telepresence price points. And AT&T and Cisco are working together to ensure shared telepresence conference rooms are available in hotels and other meeting centers. If Glowpoint is the real deal, the company's TEN service could be the glue that begins to hold together the broader telepresence market.