Mitel Challenges Cisco TelePresence

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It's become pretty clear with the advent of new high-definition video conferencing systems such as TelePresence from Cisco, they way we interact with each other over the Web is going through a major transformation.

Instead of squinting at grainy images displayed over the Web or staring at a fixed image of people in a conference room, high-definition video conferencing systems allow users to interact with people almost as if they were in the same room with each other. You can see what I'm talking about:



Of course, that level of interactivity has come at a hefty price. Once you include all the specialized equipment and consulting fees for Cisco's TelePresence offering, you're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs.

Mitel, in contrast, is rolling out a software-only approach that not only is about one-third the cost of an equivalent Cisco implementation, but also does a better job on collaboration in terms of integrating documents directly into the video conference.

To its credit, Cisco has been trying to drive the cost of TelePresence. But some of the reasons that the Mitel approach costs so much less is because as a software-only approach, it relies on standard network protocols such as SIP, doesn't require the customer to buy special furniture, and doesn't require the customer to buy Mitel phones or displays unless they want to. As a software-only approach, the Mitel system is more customizable and extensible than other approaches as well.

Other vendors such as Polycom, Tandberg and LifeSize have also all jumped into the high-definition video conferencing space as well. But at this stage, it's way too early to say who will ultimately win this battle. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain. End user expectations about the experience surrounding video conferencing is changing dramatically, which means as adoption grows the IT department better start thinking about whether the existing network is really up to the task of supporting it.