In a bid to get into small meeting rooms it cuts price but not video experience

It isn’t often that you hear Cisco Systems officials talk about going down market with a product. But that’s what the company is doing with its latest video conferencing end points.

One in particular, the SX10, a slim box with codec, camera and speakers which clips on the top of a large flat screen monitor companies have already, has a list price of US$3,999 — and it will be less with discounts and promotions.

All that’s needed are two cables to plug in. The device is controlled by an app that can be downloaded to any mobile device.

“For the price of a PC you can have a plug and play unit that installs in 10 minutes or less,” promised Snorre Kjesbu, vice-president and general manger of Cisco’s collaboration endpoint technology group.

The goal of that model and others announced Wednesday is to spread video conferencing from board rooms to smaller and more numerous meeting rooms, company officials. Their weapons are easier deployment and lower prices while keeping video quality.

The new models include:
♦♦ the SX 80 (list US$17,500), for integrators who build video conference rooms in unique spaces. It uses the new H.265 video compression protocol and can support up to three screens;

♦♦the second generation MX 200 (list US$17,900), with a 42-in. screen and a wide screen camera for four-way multi-party conferencing. Cisco said it can be set up in eight minutes;

♦♦the new MX700 single monitor and MX800 dual monitor series (starting list US$49,000) for large rooms. Cisco sees it connecting distributed teams or rich local meetings.

Both models support the H.265 compressed video standard for better bandwidth efficiency. IT can run 1080p60 video at half the bandwith of previous systems, Cisco said. And it’s priced at 30-45 per cent less expensive than Cisco’s comparable Profile series.

Both models can be equipped with the single Precision 60 camera, or the new dual camera SpeakerTrack 60 camera with a 10x optical zoom that uses face detection and audio triangulation to automatically zoom in on a sitting speaker or track a moving speaker. This, Cisco says, eliminates the problem of video conferencing systems that shrinks people furthest away from the camera.

The SpeakerTrack 60 is also sold separately (US$15,900) and can be mounted to an existing monitor.

♦♦these models include what Cisco calls Intelligent Proximity technology, which uses a high frequency audio tone to sense mobile devices in the room. It can download an app for controlling the end point, as well as for displaying slides from presenters. With the slides on tablets or smart phones, says Cisco, the main screen is freed for showing people in the conference.

The app also downloads all content to the devices automatically. Users can chose which slide they want to see.

All these units can be automatically discovered by Cisco’s Communication Manager software.

♦♦ the Business Edition 7000 (US$23,500). Similar to the previously announced BE 6000, a turnkey solution that has all the software needed to manage large scale video conferencing. The BE 7000 has licences for between 1,000 and 5,000 users and comes with a rackmount UCS server and can support up to six optional collaboration applications. The BE 6000 has licences from 25 to 1,000 users and comes with a virtualized UCS server.

Both Business Edition models are aimed at Cisco integrators who want to assemble custom solutions.

“This is the biggest refresh to our endpoint portfolio that we’ve made in many years,” said Rowan Trollope, senior vice-president of collaboration for Cisco’s technology group.

He estimates 93 per cent of the conferencing rooms in the world don’t have video conferencing equipment, “and the seven per cent that have it, most of it is junk that’s not being used.”

“We’re not going to rest until every room in every business all over the world has got extraordinary collaboration and video conferencing equipment. That’s our mission.”

The announcement impressed Ira Weinstein, a senior analyst at Wainhouse Research. Cisco’s message is that video conferencing isn’t just for the boardroom, he said.

Other vendors — among them TellyLabs, LifeSize and Aver — have relatively inexpensive solutions for meeting rooms to some degree Cisco is responding to them and Polycom and Avaya, he said. But he also said large organizations that have already invested in a VC solution for big rooms don’t want to mix suppliers he said. They’ve been waiting for their main vendor to come up with end points priced like Cisco has.

Cisco is known for its expensive dedicated TelePresence rooms. But “this was Cisco’s acknowledgement that there are rooms where you can’t spend a lot of money just to empower video.”

“By rolling out solutions that are less expensive and easier to deploy they’re expanding their market opportunity tremendously.”
“Until you have a lot of places to call and video is available throughout the organization, it can’t be pervasive,” he added. “So this is a big step towards empowering pervasive meeting room video, not just personal video.”

Ian Gallagher, Cisco Canada’s general manager of collaboration, said in an interview that channel partners here have a good opportunity with the new products, although Cisco is touting that the SX10 can be installed without any help.

Most organizations use integrators to help build their initial videoconferencing networks, he said.

The easier deployment of the SX80, MX 200, 700 and 800 will help increase partner revenue, he said.
He also noted that in Cisco (Nasadq: CSCO) offers partners here an exclusive configuration to order system for the Business Edition series to help them create solutions tailor-made for customers.

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