As Cisco Systems looks to extend the reach of its high-definition video conferencing capabilities into the midmarket through its proposed purchase of Tandberg, LifeSize Communications is rolling out an offering aimed at such sectors as SMBs, home offices and mobile workers.
LifeSize launched its Passport telepresence offering, which company officials say will offer full HD video capabilities in a device that is a third of the size, weight and price of comparable systems offered by Cisco and other competitors.
"We are really bringing small and midsize businesses into the video communication market," Colin Buechler, senior vice president of marketing at LifeSize, said in an interview. "This is literally telepresence in the palm of your hand. There's nothing in its class."
A key motive for Cisco in buying Tandberg for $3 billion is the possibility that the deal will enable Cisco to move its TelePresence video conferencing systems into the midmarket, according to analysts. Tandberg makes video conferencing systems for PCs and other devices and has a strong presence in the midmarket.
Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research, said the deal makes sense for Cisco in a number of ways, and one of those is the ability to offer desktop video conferencing, what he called in a blog post the "sleeping bear of iWorker demand about to rise in business."
Schadler continued, "This is classic. A businessperson goes home [and] Skypes his Mom in Mumbai. Why can't he do it [at] work? Answer me that! I believe that desktop video conferencing adoption and value will explode once the bandwidth, cameras and [interoperability] tools are in place."
Buechler said a goal of LifeSize's Passport is to do just that, let people have HD video conferencing capabilities wherever they are and through whatever device they want.
Passport is also much more affordable than competitors' devices, he said, at a starting price of $2,499. At that price—for the Focus model—a user gets a basic HD camera. For $3,499 for the PTZ model, the user gets a camera and can zoom in and out and pan an area. Buechler suggested that a comparable Cisco offering would run more than $30,000.
"The price point really puts the SMB into play," he said.
The Passport offers 720p-at-30-fps capabilities, HD sound and HD video at 1M bps. It also can connect to any HDTV or PC display, and offers a hardware ringer built into the system to alert users when a call is coming in.
LifeSize also is working with Skype to enable Skype HD audio calls to the 480 million registered Skype users. Buechler would not comment on whether the two companies were looking to bring HD video to the deal, but said they were continuing to work together.
"Any place there's an audio device, we think there should be a video device," he said.
Hooking up Passport is easy, essentially requiring four cables, Buechler said. Passport will be available in November.