18 January 2010. Telepresence won widespread acceptance in 2009 as the top of the range solution in visual
communications; demand was strong and there were many large enterprise-wide deployments
The Telepresence industry consolidated in 2009. 2009 was the year in which Telepresence systems began to
be deployed more widely. In January, consultants Gartner had forecast that use of Telepresence would save
users $3.5 billion in travel cost by end 2012. In June, IATA’s Director General Bisignani warned that
“whether this crisis is short or long, the world is changing … It will not be business as usual.” He cited, for
example, the growth of videoconferencing during the downturn, which is now “a stronger competitor” to air
Cisco CEO John Chambers said in May 2009: “For the first time, we are now seeing some customers talk
about hundreds of TelePresence systems and, in the not-too-distant future, to dramatically evolve not just
their communications within their organization and to their extended contacts market place but also
changing their business models.” By 15 November 2009, Cisco could boast that it had sold over 3,000
Here are some of the companies and organisations who we reported had made large deployments of
Telepresence in 2009:
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Polycom), Accenture (50 Cisco TPS), Australian Government (20 Cisco
TPS), Banco Santander (Cisco), BAT (Teliris), BAE Systems (Cisco), Colorado Dept. of Transportation
(Polycom 14 HDX), Dimension Data (Cisco), Endesa (Cisco), E.ON (10 Cisco TPS), HSBC (8 Cisco TPS), Marriott
Hotels (Cisco), Miska Group (Polycom), Nestle (Cisco), P & G (Cisco), Regus (Polycom), Starwood Hotels
(Cisco), SWIFT (Cisco), Takeda Pharmaceutical (Cisco), Tata Communications (Cisco), Telefonica (16
CiscoTSP), Westfield Group (35 Cisco TPS), Xstrata (Polycom).
The top management at these companies agreed with the London journalist, who having heard a description
of a John Chambers day using Telepresence to replace overseas visits, wrote: “The Cisco CEO has the world
at his finger tips.”
Once it was clear that Telepresence was gaining status and credibilty, Telepresence became a buzz word.
Every vendor of videoconferencing systems felt they had to develop their own Telepresence offering; some
even began to rename existing High-Definition videoconferencing systems as Telepresence, thereby leaving
the potential customer a little confused. Those who tried to define Telepresence did not refer to the
technology (which is the same as for 720p/1080p HD videoconferencing) but to the experience which must be
“immersive, life size, and like communicating in the same room”.
Cisco faced strong competition in Telepresence in 2008 and 2009 from the inventor of Telepresence -Teliris;
in February, Teliris raised $11 million to expand production and marketing and in June produced Teliris 6G,
its sixth-generation system. Stronger competition than in 2008 came from the established videoconferencing
vendors: Polycom, TANDBERG and LifeSize and Sony. Unfortunately there are no statistics of sales of
Telepresence units available from these companies to measure their success and market share.
The initial concept of Telepresence was as one using three or four adjoining large flat screens in a
dedicated suite. This was finally brushed aside in 2009. Cisco, HP, Polycom, Sony and TANDBERG each
offered single-screen solutions. In some cases, 720p and 1080p HD videoconferencing systems were renamed
as Telepresence systems. HD videoconferencing on the desktop was called Personal Telepresence by some.
It will require a highly disciplined approach based on a very clear definition of “Telepresence” to prepare
statistics on the sale of Telepresence units. For the time being the distinction has become blurred.
What will be the major trends in Telepresence in 2010?
First, even though 720p High Definition video gives a wonderful picture for business meetings, Telepresence
Solution Vendors will continue to offer 1080p resolution. The prices of Full HD LCD TV sets may drop further
in 2009. More households will own one; already 32 million U.S. households owned one at the end of 2009.
Second, most Telepresence solutions will be packaged with an outsourced, fully-managed service. Some
vendors run this managed service themselves (HP and Teliris); other vendors give you the freedom to
outsource to their certified providers (Cisco, Polycom and TANDBERG)
Third, Telepresence will remain ‘a buzz word’ and continue to give the industry a very good press.
Fourth, Telepresence will come to the home in a big way. At CES in January 2010, John Chambers CEO of
Cisco confirmed Cisco Telepresence for consumers will be trialed in 2010. Other vendors including Polycom
and Skype intend to follow.
Fifth, there will be a renewed emphasis on the Telepresence interoperability issue, facilitated by Cisco
Sixth, don’t expect anyone to define what Telepresence is in 2010. Telepresence is like art; beauty lies in the
eyes of the beholder. That is why we spell Telepresence with a capital “T”. It is so beautiful, it deserves this
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