HD Conferencing COULD be the AV/IT Conduit

By Gary Kayye, CTS

When I saw the Cisco’s version of HD videoconferencing, called Cisco TelePresence, I was extremely impressed, as I have been with all the HD-based VTC systems.  But, when I started to ask a question of Cisco, I was stopped mid-sentence and told this was, “not videoconferencing; that’s a bad word with the thousands of people who bought those systems that never worked – we don’t want our system called videoconferencing”. 

OK, marketingspeak! Blah, Blah, Blah.,.

But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they may be on to something.  They are probably even right.  There is no doubt that videoconferencing has a reputation of never quite delivering on its promise – over-promised and under-delivered.  Most VTC manufacturers will readily admit this (off-line).

So, why not make up a new word and re-sell it as something totally new – Hey, isn’t driving a Lexus a lot more luxurious than driving a Toyota? And, certainly Mazda has nothing on Infinity.

But, what really made me stop and think was what they, Cisco, may be onto here.  By introducing this technology, Cisco is “officially” in the ProAV business now.  Sure, they claim that they are only going to sell it through 25 Cisco-certified partners (none of which are known as traditional ProAV integrators, by the way).  But, one way or another, they are in the ProAV business now.

And, maybe we now have the conduit to the AV/IT convergence because Cisco isn’t selling a videoconferencing system. Cisco is selling a network add-on. A network value-add. IT managers get networks. As far as they’re concerned, networks work.

Every major ProAV tradeshow, conference, advisory board or writer (including this one) has been pushing the AV/IT convergence bandwagon for a few years now the writing’s on the proverbial wall.  And, just because it’s only happened in HomeAV, so far, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in ProAV.  In fact, to the contrary – because wireless and networked video and audio are pervasive in the home, it will, in fact, rise up to the Pro world too. 

Maybe HD conferencing is the pathway to the professional AV future – for integrators.  It’s clear to me that most integration firms get it.  While some have lived in IT-denial, most of you have been out there getting educated and integrating AMX, Extron and Crestron network-enabled control systems.  But, not totally.  With the exception of a few systems out there designed by companies like Waveguide, Shen Milsom Wilke, and Pelton Marsh Kinsella, the majority of AV systems out there are AV-centric with an IT port. 

What we need to strive for are IT systems with an AV port.  This is where products like Crestron’s Adagio and AMX’s MAX are taking the HomeAV world and will, eventually, take the professional AV community.

So, maybe it will take Cisco, an IT company, rather than a Polycom or Tandberg (both AV companies) to push us into the IT realm and AV-enabled IT systems. 

I wish them the best of luck as, although they certainly have the resources to pull it off, I certainly (along with many of you) remember Cisco’s IP/TV and its promise to do some really similar stuff to what the TelePresence system claims.

And if they do pull it off, the word videoconferencing might not be so bad after all!

Reprinted with permission from Sound & Communications.  Founded in 1955, Sound & Communications is the premiere magazine for AV systems integrators, contractors and consultantsTo subscribe or read sample articles, go to http://www.soundandcommunications.com.