Slowly but surely, Cisco Systems Inc.'s (NASDAQ:CSCO) telepresence is going mainstream. The next-generation video conferencing technology experienced a slow start because of high costs and compatibility issues. But a growing ecosystem of companies is helping to iron out those price and compatibility issues.
The latest example involves Glowpoint Inc., which has launched its so-called Telepresence Exchange Network. The move comes one month after Cisco Systems and AT&T (NYSE:T) announced a managed telepresence service for hotels.
Glowpoint is seeking to be the Rosetta Stone of the telepresence industry. Generally speaking, telepresence systems from one company (say, Cisco Systems) often don’t work with systems from another company (say, Hewlett-Packard). According to a company statement, Glowpoint’s Telepresence Exchange Network [TEN] is:
Designed to solve the challenge of placing telepresence video calls between companies on different networks as well as enabling video calls to existing conference room and desktop environments. The TEN service enables customers to easily “plug” into a high quality, secure public interconnect service and perform business-to-business and network-to-network video calling.
Frankly, Glowpoint’s TEN service sounds too good to be true (though I haven’t tested it). But Glowpoint’s strategy could be an important tipping point for the telepresence industry. In theory, customers and service providers backing one telepresence system could partner with Glowpoint to reach customers and service providers that have other telepresence platforms.
As compatibility issues go away, Cisco will be able to get more customers to embrace telepresence.
Still, the telepresence market still has some hurdles to clear. Few technology consultants are trained to sell, service and support telepresence. And many companies can’t afford telepresence conference rooms, which can cost $300,000 or more to deploy — plus thousands more to operate each month.
If Glowpoint is the real deal, the company’s TEN service could be the glue that begins to hold together the broader telepresence market.