by Ted Schadler


I spent a day with Tandberg management last week and came away very impressed with some things I can't share and also some things that I can share. Tandberg has:

  • Great HD videoconferencing solutions in room-sized all the way down to Webcam. Yep, a Webcam image looks great in a telepresence room. These guys get telepresence and end point integration.

  • A management toolkit that works at enterprise scale. It's an appliance + video network management solution. This is based on the Codian products that Tandberg acquired. They call it "infrastructure" but I think of it as the NOC for video.

  • A commitment to video standards. Take note, Cisco: This will be CRITICAL to business adoption of video for partner collaboration.

  • A strong focus on interoperability among network protocols, end points, and video codecs. The Codian acquisition clearly gave them some serious engineering. The goal is to keep the old stuff in the mix as firms build on out their new stuff. It looked good in demo, anyway.

  • Strong financials, customer base, and growth. This company is well run and winning share in its market. That team will remain in place.

[Update: 11am ET. Cisco's Marthin DeBeer mentioned Tandberg's new Business Exchange, a service to link the video conferencing networks of different carriers and companies. That's what I couldn't say before. I think it's a big deal.]

But they were seeing and losing to Cisco in deals. No longer.

Cisco's going after the biggest driver of network traffic available: Video. (Transporters are still a ways off I'm told by my Vulcan buddies). But to win and be your B2B video conferening partner, Cisco needs to get big fast and go beyond telepresence to bring in:

  • Everybody's end point: Cisco, HP (yep!), Tandberg, Polycom, Sony, Teliris, LifeSize, RADVISION, Vidyo, etc.

  • Desktop video conferencing, the sleeping bear of iWorker demand about to rise in business. This is classic. A business person goes home Skypes his Mom in Mumbai. Why can't he do it work? Answer me that! I believe that desktop video conferencing adoption and value will explode once the bandwidth, cameras, and interop tools are in place. But the experience must be improved dramatically over Skype. If Skype is old VC; then Desktop VC must become telepresence quality. I've seen it happening. It's the real deal and demand will take off.

  • Interop between carriers and companies. Companies are tired of just VC'ing with themselves. They want to VC with partners. And that requires a big video switch in the carrier hotels. Hmmm, wonder who could pull that one off?

So with a nod towards the dramatic claims in the press releases and a chuckle when considering Cisco's historical strategy for acquisition with its five precepts (at least two of which have to go out the window with this acquisition), I think this is a good deal for IT professionals.

Now, what to do next:

  • First, go back and demand price rationalization from Cisco. Play Tandberg telepresence rooms against Cisco's and get the best price and service.

  • Second, ask your video conferencing service specialist to get on board with this quickly. They will need new skills. Demand that they get them. You need interop.

  • Third, demand interop from Cisco. You need it now. Cisco can help you with Tandberg's gear and interop long before the acquisition closes.

  • Fourth and perhaps most important: DEMAND STANDARDS. You need it to protect your investments.

Have thoughts? Please share.

(call it telepresence if big screens and face-time quality are your thing, as they are with me)