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Cisco released a set of desktop telepresence units that link to a private, cloud-based collaboration platform and integrate with on-premise telephony

Cisco released a set of desktop telepresence units that link to a private, cloud-based collaboration platform and integrate with on-premise telephony

Cisco announced Tuesday that it is targeting cloud-based collaboration services with a line of desktop IP-connected voice and video collaboration units that marries its WebEx environment with on-premise telephony hardware. Cisco said the line of desktop collaboration units will help de-clutter desks and simplify corporate IT, but the move comes at a time when the market for dedicated PBX-based and dedicated video collaboration units is facing disruption from cheaper software-only alternatives that are easier to manage.

At its annual CiscoLive conference this week the company showcased its DX80, an Android-based 23-inch monitor equipped with video and voice conferencing capabilities, and the slightly smaller DX70.

The company said its aim is to combine the benefits of telepresence with the scale and flexibility of WebEx. It’s pitching the line of desktop collaboration tools at companies eager to de-clutter their desktops.

“Somewhere in the pursuit of the perfect collaboration environment, workers’ desktops became cluttered with technologies purpose-built for specific tasks (e.g., voice-only phones, webcams, monitors),” Cisco said.

“Having so many different technologies for unique tasks clearly adds cost for the company and complexity for the IT manager who must support them; it also adds frustration for users, who have different experiences as they move between different devices and collaboration modalities throughout the day.”

Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager, collaboration technology group at Cisco said the company will provide users with their own personal, private, always-available video collaboration space in the cloud, which it’s calling “Collaboration Meeting Rooms”; users would also be able to connect from soft clients like Microsoft Lync.

He said that the company’s experience in marrying traditional on-premise hardware and cloud-based networking innovations will serve it well in the corporate collaboration environment.

“Only Cisco can combine this amazing hardware, the incredible software, and the powerful network to provide anyone with their own dedicated collaboration space in the cloud – and on their desk – that they can call their own.”

Networking incumbents like Cisco and Polycom are still fighting hard to keep their grip on the hardware-based telepresence market. But up-front and management costs remain high and interoperability low, at least when compared to fully cloud-based alternatives, combined with the fact that many corporate computers come with webcams and mics built-in, many CIOs to look towards software-only alternatives.

According to Infonetics Research the enterprise video collaboration and telepresence market will hit $5bn by 2015; but the growth rate in sales of PBX-based and dedicated video conference units has been tapering off steadily since last year, in part because the segment is facing disruption from software-only cloud alternatives.