Cisco’s new high-end TelePresence accessible to more partners

LOS ANGELES – While Cisco Systems’ high-end, immersive room-based TelePresence solution got high marks for user experience, installing it required a lot of skillsets that most of its partners just don’t have.

It was also considered too expensive to dedicate a room to it and pay for the extensive renovations necessary to support it, from electricity to heating and cooling to even special paint.

The vendor has aimed to address those concerns, and hopefully move immersive TelePresence out of the executive boardroom and into the conference room, with the launch of its new three-screen Cisco TelePresence IX5000 series.

“The technology is great but implementation was limited,” said Rowan Trollope, senior vice-president and general manager of Cisco’s collaboration group. “The feedback was it needed to be more flexible and not need room remediation. We listened, took two years and built a new product.”

According to Trollope, the design principle for the IX5000 was less is more: no room remediation, no HVAC, able to go into any room where it fits. The result is a three-screen freestanding device that is 14 feet long but just eight inches thick, and a table for six to 18 people with 18 integrated microphones that use beam-forming technology to identify the speaker and use the microphone with the best audio. The three 70” screens offer a crisp Full HD experience.

The result, according to Trollope, is a solution that requires no room remediation, uses as much power as a hair dryer and, with Cisco’s H.265 codec, uses half the bandwidth of the previous solution. With the use of recyclable plastics and fabric instead of premium metals, the IX500 is also greener than the previous version and weighs half as much. And the install time is half as well.

“Our codecs make people look better than all the other codecs,” joked Trollope, adding another innovation was lights over the screen to light the conference participants and make them look better. Automatic, software-based digital zooming with the three 4K cameras also follow the speaker when they stand up, and a configurable white board mode will zoom when they’re writing on a white board.

Cisco boasts the IX5000 features a lower total cost of ownership by using less power, less bandwidth, taking half the install time and requiring no room remediation. It was purposely designed as thin and light to fit in a standard elevator and through doors, two complaints levelled against the previous generation. It has also been designed for usability, with presenters being able to connect wirelessly when WebEx for TelePresence is used. A universal video adapter has also been added.

“When you can humanize technology, more people will use it,” said Trollope. “If it looks complex it probably is, and people don’t want to deal with complexity.”

A sideview of the NX500.
A sideview of the IX5000.

Richard McLeod, senior director of collaboration sales for worldwide channels with Cisco, said by developing an immersive, room-based TelePresence solution in the IX5000 that doesn’t require room remediation, the high end of the TelePresence market will be open to more Cisco partners than it was before. The vendor’s hope is that this will drive more sales.

“We have an amazing channel of resellers, integrators and consultants, and they’ve been very active with TelePresence from the beginning,” said McLeod. “Now we add in all the partners selling unified communications. It becomes part of that vase we build on. We have a large number of partners excited about the IX5000.”

The IX5000 is available now at the same list price as the previous room-based solution, appx. $299,000.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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