Telepresence: too expensive or good ROI?

I had a lot of problems last night getting my videos done for the week. I’m still learning how to use Macs and Final Cut Express HD. Ryanne makes it look so easy, but she’s in India, so I’m left to fend for myself and things that took her microseconds to do took me an hour.

Yes, my busy life has caught up to me and now I’m behind. You’ll see my editing style is stark compared to Ryanne’s. Mostly that’s due to my ineptitude. Oh, well, you’ll have to live with it until she gets back or I hire another editor (one is coming in mid-November that I’m very excited about). Or both.

Anyway, to the topic of this post. I just was reading my feeds for my link blog and found these two:

Andy Abramson says: “To me the future of video is in the light and fleet, not in the big and costly.” Translation, he thinks Cisco’s new telepresence rooms are too expensive.

Tim Bray says: “this stuff is not that far from having slam-dunk ROI.” Translation, he thinks a good case can be made for spending the $300,000 on a room or two (Cisco, by the way, is putting in more than 100 corporate-wide).

So, who is right?

Both.

Andy is right. Most of us are going to use low-end video cameras hooked up to our computers to do videoconferencing, if we even try to do it at all.

Tim is right. If you work in a big company these things will save massive amounts of time and travel costs. Flying an exec across country can run $4,000 to $20,000 (they often don’t fly coach like I do, but business class, or, even more expensively, on a private jet which costs a LOT more than what JetBlue charges). It gets worse if you’re a billionaire like Gates or Brin. Then you have to figure in the value of your time. One such trip might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars alone. So, if you can cut down on a few trips a year you’ll pay for your telepresence room in no time at all.

When my video is up in a little while you’ll see just how lifelike this new room is. And how easy it is. You dial a phone number on a phone and it connects you. That’s it. No playing with cameras. No controls. It’s awesome.

But, if you aren’t a big company I’d stay away. The costs on these things will drop like a rock over the next five years as HD technology comes down and they get more adept at building these rooms.

UPDATE: looks like the video should be up by 2 p.m.

16 thoughts on “Telepresence: too expensive or good ROI?

  1. I think there’s room for both–that is, some companies with strong global presence who rely on collaborative meetings will gravitate towards a heavy investment up front and see the dollars over the use of something like this, whereas other companies who maybe don’t need to collaborate with teams spread out across the globe, but who still need to disseminate information and training materials will turn to easier tools like self-service webcasting and enterprise video creation/distribution for effective “one-to-many” applications.

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  2. I think there’s room for both–that is, some companies with strong global presence who rely on collaborative meetings will gravitate towards a heavy investment up front and see the dollars over the use of something like this, whereas other companies who maybe don’t need to collaborate with teams spread out across the globe, but who still need to disseminate information and training materials will turn to easier tools like self-service webcasting and enterprise video creation/distribution for effective “one-to-many” applications.

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  3. Like the vast majority of biz travellers, I don’t travel business class except when I can use an upgrade coupon. I’m *still* costing Sun tens of thousands per year.

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  4. Like the vast majority of biz travellers, I don’t travel business class except when I can use an upgrade coupon. I’m *still* costing Sun tens of thousands per year.

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  5. The issue is not how to justify ROI.

    The question is how MSFT can do the same thing with low level technology and provide a similar system to all levels. Millions sold vs hundreds supported.

    But then again, where would we be without enterprise systems and advisors for advisors of systems for systems? Please log your issue with the help desk. Normal wait time is zero to three days.
    Thank you for bringing the issue to management’s attention for resolution (and kickbacks). lol

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  6. The issue is not how to justify ROI.

    The question is how MSFT can do the same thing with low level technology and provide a similar system to all levels. Millions sold vs hundreds supported.

    But then again, where would we be without enterprise systems and advisors for advisors of systems for systems? Please log your issue with the help desk. Normal wait time is zero to three days.
    Thank you for bringing the issue to management’s attention for resolution (and kickbacks). lol

    Like

  7. Russ: oh, Cisco is already working on that too. The CTO told me “imagine in a few years when this system will cost about 1/300th what it does today. Remember, if you can’t afford something today, just stay alive. I remember when Steve Wozniak bought a $40,000 dye sublimation printer. That was 1989. Today a $70 printer does a better job.

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  8. Russ: oh, Cisco is already working on that too. The CTO told me “imagine in a few years when this system will cost about 1/300th what it does today. Remember, if you can’t afford something today, just stay alive. I remember when Steve Wozniak bought a $40,000 dye sublimation printer. That was 1989. Today a $70 printer does a better job.

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  9. Well you hafta really factor in the bandwith costs, not just the upfront. Cisco is also banking that “telepresence” will force network upgrades, so your cost will really run into the millions, that’s real ROI. It be out of reach of all but the biggest companies. And for many cultures, just using it would kill deals. It’s of limited value really, UNTIL it becomes a commodity.

    btw, Adobe bought Serious Magic. Holy Cow, man was that a blindside, I didn’t even see that coming. Cisco was known 5 years ahead style. Wow…good for Adobe tho. That’s tons more products you can video up. 🙂

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  10. Well you hafta really factor in the bandwith costs, not just the upfront. Cisco is also banking that “telepresence” will force network upgrades, so your cost will really run into the millions, that’s real ROI. It be out of reach of all but the biggest companies. And for many cultures, just using it would kill deals. It’s of limited value really, UNTIL it becomes a commodity.

    btw, Adobe bought Serious Magic. Holy Cow, man was that a blindside, I didn’t even see that coming. Cisco was known 5 years ahead style. Wow…good for Adobe tho. That’s tons more products you can video up. 🙂

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  11. My point is the cost of these systems have to be funded some how. High initial proto-type costs are normal in most industries. However, production units are not even close to proto-type costs. (Automotive)

    ROI for video conferencing is a no-brainer. Face to face meetings are still needed for high end users (i.e. relationship building). Unless you can get the old handshake add-on feature. Mid-level management can easily justify the cost of a Cisco system in most FFH industries.

    Want to see how you can do the same thing with the stuff you already have for the Scoble show? It is a nice system and will sell well to the niche market.

    Uncle will not even bat an eye at purchasing hundreds of the units.

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  12. My point is the cost of these systems have to be funded some how. High initial proto-type costs are normal in most industries. However, production units are not even close to proto-type costs. (Automotive)

    ROI for video conferencing is a no-brainer. Face to face meetings are still needed for high end users (i.e. relationship building). Unless you can get the old handshake add-on feature. Mid-level management can easily justify the cost of a Cisco system in most FFH industries.

    Want to see how you can do the same thing with the stuff you already have for the Scoble show? It is a nice system and will sell well to the niche market.

    Uncle will not even bat an eye at purchasing hundreds of the units.

    Like

  13. Robert,

    Wanna see ooh ahh eye ball poppers ? Try proposing a virtual room where the occupants enter the room and the image is Lidar scanned and re-assembled at the other end on all 3 walls as the occupants walk around the room in real time. We would then be getting very close to the holo-deck. ; )

    Millions for development of that technology would yield a forward leap in a technology witch(Halloween ; )) would justify the cost of proto-typing.

    http://lidarvfx.com/splash.html

    Just a thought ; )

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  14. Robert,

    Wanna see ooh ahh eye ball poppers ? Try proposing a virtual room where the occupants enter the room and the image is Lidar scanned and re-assembled at the other end on all 3 walls as the occupants walk around the room in real time. We would then be getting very close to the holo-deck. ; )

    Millions for development of that technology would yield a forward leap in a technology witch(Halloween ; )) would justify the cost of proto-typing.

    http://lidarvfx.com/splash.html

    Just a thought ; )

    Like

  15. 8 months later.
    Telapresence is starting to catch on. Most US companies are investigating it.
    The 300k a room is a drawback because you are building the whole room.

    Vendors like Telanetix give you the technology. You make room alterations on your own.

    Bottom line. cisco is not a furniture store, nor lighting contractor, nor carpet vendor. why would you buy from them and give them the huge mark up?

    now 60k a room is much better.

    Like

  16. 8 months later.
    Telapresence is starting to catch on. Most US companies are investigating it.
    The 300k a room is a drawback because you are building the whole room.

    Vendors like Telanetix give you the technology. You make room alterations on your own.

    Bottom line. cisco is not a furniture store, nor lighting contractor, nor carpet vendor. why would you buy from them and give them the huge mark up?

    now 60k a room is much better.

    Like

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