Two weeks ago Tsahi Levent-Levi wrote on NoJitter that the Cisco Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) is just the TIP of the iceberg – a nice initiative and a positive step forward, but not a real, complete solution.
You can debate why Cisco suddenly decided to “play nice” and why now. But the fact remains – The Telepresence Strategy is flawed, as Andrew Davis from Wainhouse Research has been saying for a while (and he’s not alone). This week Eric Krapf, editor of NoJitter, quoted Andrew and mentioned that last year he suggested that “Cisco’s bid to push a proprietary vision under the name “telepresence” will likely give way to Cisco’s acceptance of a more interoperable vision of simply “videoconferencing”.”
I have discussed what telepresence is (and what it’s not) before. Here we are talking about multi-stream telepresence systems that work with multiple cameras and multiple displays. I have also discussed the need for telepresence interoperability, as telepresence vendors are generally not interoperable with their competitors. Bottom line: up until now there were telepresence silos and a video conferencing (non-telepresence) silo, which are almost entirely secluded.
As Tsahi explained a few days ago, interoperability is vital for any product to succeed. What I believe everyone agrees upon – Andrew, Eric, Tsahi, myself, the Cisco folks – is that without real interoperability between telepresence systems and between telepresence and video conferencing systems, the visual communications revolution will not happen.
Real Interoperability, Real Value
As RADVISION has always been a global leader in visual communications, especially in terms of standardization and interoperability, I was really excited about our new telepresence interoperability feature announced publicly today.
This new feature on the SCOPIA Elite MCU enables users to communicate with telepresence endpoints from the leading vendors in the visual communications market – Cisco, Logitech/LifeSize, Polycom and Tandberg – using the same infrastructure as they are using today for single-stream video conferencing endpoints.
A telepresence system displayed on a video conferencing endpoint as part of the CP layout
With the telepresence interoperability feature, the SCOPIA Elite MCU can now not only establish multi-stream connections with almost all telepresence systems on the market, but also offer both telepresence and non-telepresence users an optimal experience in cases where both telepesence and non-telepresence endpoints are present:
- In a multi-party call, telepresence users can view all meeting participants, including those on other telepresence systems, as well as legacy and non-telepresence systems.
- To preserve the telepresence experience, non-telepresence participants will be displayed on the telepresence systems in a special video layout, on top of the active telepresence video.
- Users on traditional video conferencing systems can view the telepresence participants on an optimized video layout, where the multiple video streams coming from the telepresence endpoints are combined into a single widescreen image.
Telepresence system showing another telepresence system and
video conferencing systems as part of its layout
I believe that this ground breaking feature provides significant opportunities for enterprises and service providers to cost effectively utilize both telepresence and non-telepresence video conferencing endpoints and infrastructure, without any limitations on the vendor and endpoint, and without compromising the immersive, multi-stream telepresence experience.
The telepresence interoperability initiative is something we have worked on for some time now. The SCOPIA Elite MCU is an ideal platform to support this initiative, given the special handling and amount of video processing required for telepresence communications. When released, a year ago, the SCOPIA Elite product manager, Yaniv Levi, explained why it is a best-of-breed, high quality, high performance conferencing bridge. It enables users to connect at up to 1080p, without compromising quality or features.
Furthermore, as the telepresence interoperability is using the existing SCOPIA Elite MCU, with only a software upgrade, enterprises can now easily and cost effectively add telepresence support without purchasing an additional, separate system.
Software clients, desktop systems, room systems, telepresence systems – I strongly believe they each have their own pros and cons, and all should co-exist in a real mass deployment. That’s why I am so excited about this new exciting feature – it just lets you work the way you want and disregards issues like vendor and product type.
We will be demonstrating the telepresence interoperability feature at InfoComm 2010 in Las Vegas next week. If you’re in Vegas, be sure to visit our booth (booth N2231 in the Conferencing Pavilion) and see this great new feature for yourself.