Monday, March 19, 2007

Is Telepresence Not Videoconferencing?

It's no secret that our friends at Cisco are making a big play into what they call the "telepresence" realm. Whether it's their videoconferencing offerings, their purchase of WebEx Communications to beef up their application sharing bits, and there's the whole providing the network-in-general stuff they do, too, they are really beating the telepresence drum.

But I can't help but wonder, as I read the descriptions of their life-altering multipoint dreams, if it's really that different from what the folks at Polycom are doing already. Like this announcement from February, or maybe even just their basic set of offerings. I use Polycom almost every day and value the low price entry point (for the PVX desktop edition of their videoconferencing software), relative ease of use (if opening ports on your local firewall is easy, which, honestly, is not that bad), and high video/call quality over normal consumer bandwidth.

Now if I could just get my institutional and department firewalls to be more accommodating and less prone to random changes in what ports are opened and closed, I'd really be cooking with gas.

Look, there's probably some deep difference between what Cisco is hyping and the offerings that existing market players like Polycom, Lifesize, Raindance, and other nice companies bring to bear. But I'm not sure I'm seeing it in the PR bonanza that accompanies their WebEx acquisition.

Maybe someone out there can enlighten me.


Anonymous said...

Hey--I just started using WebEx. We can compare notes over family vacation. AT

Stella Commute said...

Thanks for writing "AT" -- I'm not sure I want strange weirdos from the internet along on a family vacation but whatever ;-)

WebEx is nice, and the video is pretty good. We went with GoToMeeting in my office because the interface seemed a little simpler and at the time most of my colleagues weren't that focused on sharing video and applications, desktops, and the like.

For videoconferencing, we're using Polycom, which is nice for high-end conferencing, and PVX is good for desktops. Sometimes I wonder if my need for more adhoc videoconferencing might not be better served by WebEx -- we'll have to do some meetings between my office and the house PC to evaluate.