An Expanded TelePresence for Cisco

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) on Monday unveiled an expansion of its high-end videoconferencing series to include a simpler, cheaper version as well as one targeting big groups.

The network equipment maker introduced a videoconferencing system called TelePresence in 2006 featuring life-size, high-definition screens and easy-to-use dial-in features.
Sales have been picking up — they had initially been limited to a number of global companies,. Rivalry with other videoconferencing providers has also heated up as more companies expand globally and seek to cut travel costs.

Cisco said the new products would broaden the system’s appeal. The TelePresence System 500 will be suited for personal use and, at a list price of $33,900, cost less than half the previously most basic version, TelePresence 1000, which was designed for about two people to a unit.

“We expect the 500 to be the volume product for sure, pretty soon. That’s because people will put it in their home offices, small businesses, private offices, kiosks and branches,” said Charles Stucki, vice president of Cisco’s TelePresence business unit.

The Cisco 3200, also unveiled on Monday, will be able to host larger groups and will be offered as a step up from the TelePresence 3000, which was designed for six people. The new product will triple capacity and cost $340,000, compared with $299,000 for the 3000.

Stucki said the 3200, which features new microphone and camera lens technology to handle more participants, would be useful for training and large meetings.

The announcement comes after Cisco announced a tie-up with the top U.S. phone company, AT&T (NYSE: T), last month to sell TelePresence together, a move that boosted its sales force.

Rivals include Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), Polycom (NASDAQ: PLCM) and Teliris. Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and an AT&T rival, also offers some videoconferencing services.

In addition to developing TelePresence, Cisco last year acquired online video and audio conferencing company WebEx. Unlike TelePresence, however, it does not seek to replicate in-person meetings.

“Over time, TelePresence and WebEx will get more integrated,” Stucki said, but for now, “TelePresence is when you need to be there. WebEx is for other types of collaboration when you can’t.”

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