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Cisco's mixed message

If there's no such thing as bad -- or in this case, inaccurate -- publicity, Cisco must be very happy today. The company invited a handful of reporters to a 'TelePresence' briefing Friday with former basketball star Magic Johnson, CEO and founder of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE).

Monday, Computerworld, NetworkWorld and InternetNews.com all had [stories on the event ](/infra/article.php/3785451/Cisco+Network+Setup+Scores+for+Magic+Johnson.htm)which was pretty cool indeed. I was at Cisco's San Jose headquarters where three big screens connected me with Johnson in Los Angeles, reporters from the tech pubs as well as Sports Illustrated and ESPN in other cities.

The most extraordinary thing about TelePresence, a high end, dedicated video conferencing system costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, is how lifelike the image is. I grew up watching Magic Johnson battle my beloved Celtics, so it was no surprise he comes across as larger than life on a video screen, as I'm sure he does in person. But in the TelePresence meeting, it truly did seem as if all the participants were in the same room even though we were hundreds of miles away from each other. No jerky motions, delays in the audio or video or other problems I've seen with less sophisticated equipment; communication is as smooth as an in-person meeting.

**A dual agenda**

Well, Cisco had a dual-agenda in holding the meeting and its message got a bit lost along the way. One aspect was to publicize its TelePresence system, which is why this wasn't simply a Web cast or conference call. The other was to tout Johnson and his MJE as a marquee small business customer of Cisco's unified communications products.

Mission accomplished on that latter point, but the mixed message led to reports (since corrected) in *Computerworld* and NetworkWorld that said Johnson and MJE use TelePresence systems.

I should also note Cisco offers the [TelePresence 500 system](http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2008/prod_051208b.html) with 37-inch display, priced at $33,900, a fraction of the cost of the larger system I saw. But that's not what MJE is using either, rather it's using more basic desktop video conferencing with Webcams attached to desktop and notebook PCs.

So perhaps a more accurate message from the event is that Cisco's fabulous TelePresence is still beyond the budget of most small businesses, but it's a great way to tout cheaper alternatives.

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