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Cisco Integrates Tandberg Telepresence

Demonstrating that its $3.4 billion acquisition of Tandberg earlier this year is progressing smoothly and on schedule, Cisco has announced updates to three lines of products in the telepresence, or high-definition video teleconferencing, marketplace. The Tandberg acquisition was announced last October 1 and closed on April 19. The intent of telepresence is to use high-quality, high-definition video and audio to provide an experience that is as good as being in person.

Tandberg's TelePresence Server, which is available as both a blade and a standalone appliance, now supports Telepresence Interoperability Protocol, an open source standard that Cisco developed and then turned over to the market. This feature, which will be available by July 31, makes it easier for users to communicate using telepresence products from different vendors. Analysts were positive about the announcements and the acquisition. "It shows that Cisco can quickly leverage the Tandberg acquisition," as well as showing commitment to the Tandberg line and to the lower end of the market, says Irwin Lazar, vice president of communications and collaboration research for Nemertes Research Group, in Chicago.

Tandberg endpoints will also be supported by Cisco TelePresence directories in June. In other hardware announcements, the company enhanced the software in the MSE 8710 TelePresence Server blade to support up to 48 screens in a multi-screen conference call, and the MSE 8510 Media2 blade up to 60 screens in a single screen multipoint call. This is a firmware upgrade that is expected to be available by the end of July.

The company also announced a telepresence client for the Macintosh, Movi for Mac. In addition, Movi in general has been enhanced and is on version 4. It now integrates ClearPath, a set of Cisco technologies that improves resolution for video users by minimizing packet loss. Other Movi announcements include the ability to remotely control far-end cameras, improved support for multiparty conferencing, and support for the ICE protocol to increase call capacity. The Mac version will have the same features and will be available in October. "Tandberg gives Cisco tons of intellectual property," says Jonathan Edwards, research analyst in enterprise communications infrastructure for IDC. "It makes the Cisco telepresence portfolio complete."

Cisco also combined Cisco TelePresence Manager, Cisco TelePresence Multipoint Switch, and the Cisco TelePresence Recording studio onto one server using VMware, called Commercial Express, to make it easier and faster to implement the products, as well as simpler to license them, the company said. The product is specifically intended for small- to medium businesses and is priced at $53,000, compared with $282,000 to buy the products separately. The company also said it would integrate its inTouch easy-to-use touchscreen interface--similar to that of an iPhone with Cisco's Tandberg Profile series and the line of C Series codecs. This will be available in Q4.