New products, partner program cement Cisco/Tandberg integration

Just over six months after completing its US$3.3 billion acquisition of Tandberg, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) has announced a host of new products, easier integration between product lines, and a new channel program to bring Cisco and Tandberg partners together under the same umbrella.

The Cisco and Tandberg programs have operated in parallel since the acquisition, but that will change when the TelePresence Video Authorized Technology Provider (ATP) program comes into effect on January 31, 2011.

“We’re finding today it’s more about video becoming the new voice,” said Richard McLeod, senior director, collaboration with Cisco. “We’re really at an inflection point here. It’s really coming to a head around pervasive video. We’re transforming the workplace experience with video at the heart of that.”

Rick Snyder was a senior executive with Tandberg and is now vice-president, global business, TelePresence Sales with Cisco. He said they’re seeing momentum across all product categories, whether it’s the immersive experience in the high-end, multipurpose video conferencing appliances, or desktop solutions.

“What’s really driving this is TelePresence for everyone, everywhere, in every kind of environment,” said Snyder.

Going forward, McLeod said video will be integrated into every endpoint that Cisco announces, using Cisco Communications Manager as a single call control agent. This will eliminate the cost and expense of managing and maintaining dual control platforms. Tandberg endpoints will also utilize it natively, beginning with the E20 video phone becoming available in Q4.

“We see this as a tremendous opportunity for our Cisco unified communications (UC) partners to leverage that skillset and capability from UC to bring video into the fold, and vice versa for our Tandberg partners to move from their strength and experience in video into the UC space,” said McLeod.

Bringing in over 1200 Tandberg partners, McLeod said they needed to build a program that recognizes their strengths and investment. The new program will have three-and-a-half tiers: express, advanced, advanced plus and master.

“Advanced plus is the bridge between the Tanderg and Cisco product lines,” said McLeod. “It’s an easier ability and skill-set to pick-up and provides access to the Cisco UC product line.

The program will be invite-only, said McLeod, to preserve the investment and value for partners and prevent commoditization. It’s built on the foundations of both Cisco and Tandberg, added Snyder, noting over 80 per cent of Cisco’s legacy business and 95 per cent of Tandberg’s went thru the channel.

“The Tandberg channel brings an incredible amount of video expertise to Cisco as an AV-centric partner base with service provider expertise,” said Snyder. “(Under the new program) the partners that bring the greatest value are rewarded at the greatest level. It’s a value-based, selective approach that leverages the existing program and investments.”

Partners will have a number of new endpoints to bring to market. The Cisco TelePresence EX60, starting at US$6900, is a smaller cousin to the EX90 with a smaller footprint, offering 720p high definition video conferencing. Also new is the Cisco TelePresence System 500, a 32” virtual in-person video experience for executive offices with a list price of US$23,900. Cisco will also make a new WebEx experience available later this quarter with full-screen video and support for the Cisco Cius and Apple iPad to soon follow. <pAnd seeing a strong opportunity for the channel around services, the Cisco TelePresence Exchange System is a service creation platform that gives service providers a turnkey packaged solution that can help them deploy telepresence services such as intercompany calling.

McLeod noted that by 2013, 90 per cent of traffic on all networks is expected to be video.

“The services opportunity as we move into more advanced solutions is pushing three to five-times the value of product sold,” said McLeod. “There’s tremendous upside for the partners.”

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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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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