Dominic Dodd, principal analyst, unified communications & collaboration, Europe
Our just-completed research into the development of the telepresence market shows this has moved on in a big way since Frost & Sullivan first covered the technology segment in 2007.
For starters, however, we were able to confirm that the 'immersive experience' that telepresence can uniquely offer users remains highly valued, and is a key driver for the continuing growing demand for this type of visual collaboration.
By 'immersive experience' here, we mean that users of telepresence see high quality, life-sized images on the video screens in front of them, with eye-to-eye contact with the person they're speaking with (although, in practice, this eye-to-eye contact can be limited depending on the design of the system they are using, and the actually seating arrangement used).
In this way, telepresence has, from the get-go, been designed to create a user experience that tries to emulate a real-life meeting as closely as possible. In addition to the technical characteristics - like camera positions and video screen sizes - lots of bandwidth and network and service management have all combined to offer a high-quality, consistent and reliable communications tool.
This has been a key differentiator from it's 'little brother', videoconferencing, helping to justify the much higher average pricing that telepresence has commanded so far.
We think that's now starting to change.
For one, videoconferencing has in the last couple of years improved very rapidly, with high definition (HD) fast becoming the norm, while IP Network capabilities have gone up, and costs have come down.
Top end videoconferencing systems - with HD and large monitors - is now chomping at the heels of telepresence. Service providers are also recognizing the potential to create packages of these high spec VC systems with managed services, further eroding the differential that telepresence has claimed to date.
But VC will not replace telepresence anytime soon. We expect there to be a gradually development of competition, with telepresence manufacturers ( most of which also produce VC products anyway) responding with greater features and capabilities.
As the latest Frost & Sullivan study, Telepresence Global Market (M46C-64) describes, the market for customized telepresence solutions is set to grow significantly, complemented the existing market for 'ready-built' systems - such as the HP Halo, Polycom RPX, Cisco CTS300, Teliris VirtuaLive, and Tandberg T3 products.
By custom solutions, we mean room systems that can offer the same immersive user experience as the ready-built products, but created from standard videoconferencing components.
Systems integrators are already seeing the opportunity here. The higher prices telepresence system can command is attracting competition from this quarter. Also, systems integrators will, over time, develop more capabilities to further customize telepresence to meet very specific customer needs - such as room design preferences or applications requirements.
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