It was only a matter of time. Just last week, I mentioned the buzz around managed telepresence services has grown louder and louder. Now, a Toronto company called videoCloud has launched managed telepresence services. I don't know much about videoCloud, but I do think the company's strategy is a sign of things to come in the managed telepresence market.
First, the basic news. videoCloud says its managed telepresence systems are available in 12, 24 and 36 month service terms. There's also an option for short-term (one to 12-month) engagements. According to a videoCloud press release:
With no upfront acquisition cost and a fixed monthly fee that includes both equipment and managed services, a state-of-the-art system can be deductedThe company claims videoCloud scales from a large boardroom setting to the private office or cubicle. Instead of selling the service direct, videoCloud is seeking partners (VARs, systems integrators and managed service providers) to help drive demand for the service. I don' have pricing or product specific info, but I'm checking in with videoCloud for more information.
as an operating expense.
Hits and MissesThis is a tricky time in the telepresence market. All products and services are not created equal.
Early options from Cisco Systems involved conference room buildouts that cost $300,000 or more. And the initial telepresence solutions only worked within company walls -- sort of like a business phone that can't dial an outside number and can't reach external companies. But gradually, Cisco has introduced lower-priced options. And service providers like BT have built exchanges that allow inter-company telepresence sessions.
Also of note: Big service providers like AT&T are helping to drive telepresence into hotels, so that you can visit a local destination and pay a flat hourly fee to set up hotel-to-hotel video conversations. Plus, upstarts like Lifesize Communications have been driving down the price of telepresence. And there's growing buzz around managed video as a service (MVaaS), where MSPs manage video surveillance and other applications for retailers, government offices and schools. (Proponents include Envysion.)
To be sure, telepresence isn't an easy market to navigate. Systems vary greatly in terms of price, quality and standards. But I do think a video tipping point occurred during the Cisco Partner Summit in Boston (June 2-4, 2009). The networking giant handed out more than 1,500 Flip video cameras to attendees and channel partners. Though certainly not telepresence enabled, the Flip video camera got attendees thinking about video education, video conversations and other types of new applications.
Ultimately, Cisco hopes to transform those Flip fans into telepresence evangalists. Meanwhile, videoCloud is seeking to take managed telepresence services to the masses.
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