TelePresence hits channel inflection point

According to Cisco’s channel chief, Keith Goodwin, the company’s TelePresence solutions are becoming a big channel play faster than initially anticipated.

TelePresence combines advanced audio, high-definition video and interactive elements for in-person experiences. TelePresence sessions are executed the same as a VoIP call and comprise a three-panel 65-inch plasma screen complete with a specially designed table that seats six participants on one side.

When TelePresence was first launched last year it had a very limited partner set. The early implementations for TelePresence were for large enterprises. “We had to ensure we had a partner who can implement for a large global enterprise,” he said.

One of the first Canadian customers of TelePresence was to Rogers Communications. Rogers deployed four TelePresence System 3000 suites in Toronto, Brampton, Ont., Montreal and Vancouver.

Rogers wanted TelePresence so that employees would be able to communicate with each other across the country as if they were meeting in the same room. The company also wanted to improve staff collaboration with the sharing of documents in hopes of raising productivity, while reducing travel costs and environmental impact.

But, just a year later, things have changed and Goodwin said the company is building capacity with its partners around TelePresence.

“We wanted it in place, but we also need them to be profitable. So we did not want them to be over subscribed and now we are starting to expand and building it out successfully,” he said.

Cisco has found that local partners have been able to implement TelePresence solutions for organizations with two sites within the same country. With that Cisco made available the single screen TelePresence 1000 system. This unit features a one 65-inch, 1080p high-definition plasma screen. It is intended to be flush-mounted on a wall for smaller rooms.

“If you have a local customer here with a site in Toronto and one in Montreal then it is easy to have a local partner to have that two site system,” he said.

Goodwin added that there was never a worldwide mandate to bring TelePresence down market so more resellers could develop solutions around it for customers.

“It goes back to our methodology and instead of saying in general we will build out TelePresence everywhere we’ll look at Canada and say where can we build coverage. This is a very different (approach) from the old days where we said lets sign up a whole bunch of TelePresence partners,” he said.

Cisco also believes TelePresence can scale up market as well. Goodwin said TelePresence can be very pervasive. “There are companies starting to see the business return on TelePresence. You will see it scale down market fairly quickly. If you are a mid-size company spending money on air travel between Toronto and Vancouver or Vancouver to Montreal you can get a fast return on TelePresence,” he said.

Goodwin, who was in Canada to talk to partners and Cisco staff, also said his main agenda for this trip was to push Cisco solutions to the SMB market in Canada.

Earlier this year, Cisco re-vamped its marketing program to focus more on the emerging market of smaller businesses. The new program called SMB Select will be an adjunct to its Premier, Silver and Gold levels.

“We launched the Select program to go after the SMB space recognizing this is a different set of partners and that the old program did not have the characteristics that would appeal to them,” he said.

He added that there was also some confusion with the older program that the company wanted to clear up. The overall goal is to have 7,000 partners in Select.“As we increase partner capacity to seize more of the huge opportunity in the SMB market, there’s a growing pipeline of SMB specialization badges and Select Certified partners. We have awarded 200 SMB specialization badges and 120 Select Certified partners globally,” he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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