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Cisco TelePresence Turns 5, Broadens Options

Cisco Systems is marking the fifth birthday of its high-definition TelePresence videoconferencing system with a flurry of product announcements, including less expensive and more portable systems. It is also offering TelePresence as a hosted service for small and midsize businesses. And, responding to critics of its closed, proprietary ecosystem, Cisco said its technology is more interoperable with most other HD videoconferencing systems entering the market Cisco helped create.

To broaden its portfolio and offer TelePresence technology that is more accessible to SMBs, Cisco is introducing Cisco TelePresence Callway, a hosted service that allows a customer to lease the equipment and the connection for $99 a month, or $149 a month for a higher-resolution service. The fee includes unlimited calls to any TelePresence endpoint, as well as to any standards-based, third-party systems.

Other videoconferencing vendors, such as Logitech's LifeSize, have previously offered cloud-delivered video.

Cisco also introduced the TelePresence MX300, a multipurpose system that can be set up in just a few minutes in a smaller-than-average conference room. The multipurpose systems are not as complex as the room-based systems that feature specially made studios and multiple screens and cameras. The MX300 is a less expensive version of the MX200 Cisco already sells, says Randy Harrell, director of Cisco's TelePresence technology group.

Harrell adds that the product was designed based on customer feedback, saying that customers told the company, "I want a product for the rest of the conference rooms. I want you to build a product that I can deploy when budget is scarce." No pricing information was shared for the MX300, which is to expected to become available in the first quarter of 2012.

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