Telepresence Still Not Inexpensive Enough for SMBs

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Back in May, IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk wrote about several vendors, including Cisco and Teliris, that were rolling out scaled-down versions of their pricey telepresence systems designed to appeal to SMBs. The title of his post, "Telepresence for the Rest of Us," neatly encapsulated the idea of products that weren't "so expensive as to be comical."


Network World's Larry Chaffin finds the available options seriously wanting, noting that Cisco's Telepresence 500 system is "way overpriced for the market" at $33,900 retail. Polycom's HDX 7000 is also too costly, at $14,000 with no monitor. The most economically priced option for SMBs that he could find, writes Chaffin, is the Lifesize Express system, which costs $4,995. It also lacks a monitor and can be used only for video conferencing with customers.


Telepresence systems won't win mainstream acceptance with SMBs until they are priced at about $1,000, complete with monitor, opines Chaffin. He also mentions rumors that Skype or MSN may support high-definition video conference calls in the near future.


Chaffin's post yielded a comment from a reader who cautions SMBs against going too far down market with telepresence systems. He writes:

If you want to achieve the end-user acceptance and usage that gets folks off planes and improves the quality of global collaborative work, then you need the right tool for the job and the plastic-camera-on-the-tv-set-on-the-dessert-cart only goes so far.

In his post, Weinschenk addresses the need for "suitably robust" broadband connections to support the telepresence infrastructure, and also notes that "the definition of telepresence may be subtly broadening from total immersion to include very high-quality video conference." Users will want lots of options, he writes, including traditional video conferencing in all price ranges, HD conferencing and full-fledged telepresence.