CES 2010: Cisco Systems Brings Video Conferencing To The Lounge

This spring, Cisco will launch trials with Verizon and France Telecom around HDTV-enabled videoconferencing, with commercial applications in health care, "family-to-family," and musical entertainment likely to follow starting in the second half of 2010, said Cisco CEO John Chambers, in a press conference at CES in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

In a series of demos, Chambers showed how Cisco's emerging TelePresence system can be used in both health care and remote communications between family members.

After videoconferencing from Las Vegas with his own wife, Elaine, who was sitting in her living room at home, the CEO brought a Cisco employee named Ken to the stage. The staffer, who is diabetic, then videoconferenced with his own physician and a technician about how his level of compliance with a prescribed diet and exercise routine had impacted his blood sugar levels over the past few weeks, either positively or negatively.

In presenting the demos, Cisco used a set-top box, high-def Web camera, and remote contol unit. Cisco's TelePresence is designed to work with existing HDTVs already in consumers' living rooms.

During remarks at the press conference, Chambers admitted that companies might time things badly by trying to come to market with video services either too early or too late. But he suggested that, as he sees it, Cisco's timing with TelePresence is directly on target.

"A third of the households in America already have the bandwidth available" for Cisco's upcoming videoconferencing system, he maintained.

Speaking with a small group of reporters later, Chambers explained that consumers will be able to use TelePresence even if their flat panel HDTVs are not Internet-enabled.

Ultimately, Cisco plans to offer TelePresence through many other network providers other than just Verizon and France Telecom, according to the Cisco CEO. Cisco will work with third-party content providers to create videoconferencing applications across a wide gamut.

Chambers also contended that videoconferencing applications in medicine will help cut down on health care costs.

When asked by Betanews to specify some other application areas for TelePresence, Chambers pointed to entertainment.

Through a deal between Cisco and Atlantic Records, rock groups such as Paramore have already been using Cisco's Eos social entertainment platform. During the press conference earlier, Ned Hooper, Cisco's chief strategy officer, noted that Eos has helped Paramore to boost its revenues by luring more fans to its Web site and stimulating sales of products such as a Paramore-branded Flip camera from Cisco.

Chambers told Betanews that, when Cisco's videoconferencing system is in place, consumers will be able to get more interaction with their favorite entertainers. "You could jam with Paramore," he illustrated.

Also today, Cisco announced that three more content providers -- two of them in the entertainment arena -- will now start using Eos: Travel Channel, All Access Today, and Eleven Seven Music Group/Tenth Street Entertainment.

All Access Today is associated with entertainers such as Willie Nelson and Peter Gabriel, according to Hooper, whereas Eleven Seven works with Motley Crew, for instance.