Business video is expanding, both from dedicated meeting rooms out to small client devices and from large enterprises down to small businesses, in a movement that Cisco Systems plans to tap into for significant growth over the next several years.
On Wednesday, Cisco is introducing products for distributing video, making it run on a variety of clients and helping users find recorded clips they might be looking for. These moves to complete the company's vision of pervasive video comes on the same day as Logitech's LifeSize subsidiary announces a videoconferencing bridge and Indian vendor Vu Telepresence makes a low-priced video meeting system available to small businesses in the United States.
Cisco rekindled interest in videoconferencing in 2006 when it introduced its TelePresence Meeting System, which took advantage of high-definition screens, directional audio equipment and fat network pipes to deliver a more lifelike experience than many earlier systems. But the first Cisco TelePresence systems cost nearly $600,000 for a pair of rooms that each seated six participants.
Competitors offered alternatives with some of the same qualities for less, and over time Cisco scaled TelePresence down to units for offices, factories, warehouses, and eventually homes. Meanwhile, Skype, Apple, and other vendors have popularized less pristine video calling to a variety of other platforms, including mobile phones.
Cisco's plans go beyond TelePresence to encompass not only other types of videoconferencing but other forms of video, including entertainment, digital signage, and surveillance. At the core of that vision is Medianet, a software and hardware infrastructure based in the network that handles the complexities of managing different types of video.
Cisco believes video will spread broadly across enterprises. The company's top customers told Cisco that they expected 80 percent of their employees to have videoconferencing on their desktops within the next five years, said Guido Jouret, chief technology officer of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group. Not only will that add to data traffic, with video rising from about 50 percent of all packets now to 90 percent within the next few years, but it will require new tools within networks to deal with the requirements of a good video experience, he said.
"Video not only loads networks, it also changes networks," Jouret said.
The products introduced Wednesday help to bring Medianet into reality. A new release of Cisco's MXE (Media Experience Engine) 5600, which converts video for use on various platforms, adds to the list of endpoints it can work with. These include systems from LifeSize and Polycom as well as some desktop videophones. A new product, the MXE 3500, integrates Cisco Pulse, a platform for searching out specific multimedia content. For example, users can search for the part of a video presentation where the speaker talked about a specific topic. The new Digital Media Player 4310 is designed to help enterprises deploy large networks of digital signs and automatically distribute content to them.