Video Managed Services and TelePresence: Good News, Bad News

Video Managed Services and TelePresence: Good News, Bad News

Whether you call it telepresence or video conferencing one thing is clear: Video continues to gain momentum in the managed services market. The latest example involves InterCall, a conferencing and collaboration services provider, partnering with Informata, a video network operations center (VNOC) provider. Together, InterCall and Informata plan to offer global VNOC services to customers. It sounds promising but I keep coming back to the same question: Can MSPs carve out a profitable telepresence niche as free and low-cost consumer video services like Skype continue to proliferate?

The InterCall-Informata relationship sure sounds promsing. Founded in 1991, InterCall provides audio, event, Web and video conferencing solutions to customers across North America, Europe and Asia. The company employees more than more than 1,500 operators, customer service representatives, call supervisors, accounting, marketing and IT professionals. Meanwhile, Iformata's Telepresence Exchange is a video communications network that some global Fortune 500 firms leverage, the company says.

Generally speaking, telepresence seems to be catching on with enterprise customers. Indeed, the global market for managed telepresence and video conferencing services will grow from $512.5 million in 2010 to $1.2 billion in 2016, according to ABI Research. Companies such as Vu TelePresence have launched recurring revenue channel partner programs for VARs and MSPs. And most of the major network equipment providers -- from Cisco Systems to Hewlett-Packard -- promote telepresence as a lucrative channel partner opportunity.

Still, the market faces some challenges. Earlier this week Cisco slashed prices on its Umi telepresence systems for consumers. GigaOm has labeled the Cisco consumer telepresence a failure that has undermined the corporate telepresence market. For a growing number of businesses, I sense that free and low-cost solutions like ooVoo and Skype video are "good enough" -- potentially putting pressure on managed telepresence opportunities.

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