LifeSize setting telepresence pace
Cisco is generally given credit for launching the telepresence market, announcing its products in 2005 and bringing them to market a year later. In fact, a much smaller company, venture-backed LifeSize, had actually started work in 2002 on its telepresence gear, bringing products to market a year ahead of Cisco. And while LifeSize continues to exist in Cisco’s shadow in terms of advertising and public awareness, the company has done well for itself in sales in part because Cisco validated the telepresence market, LifeSize Chief Executive Officer Craig Malloy admits.
“They helped validate the market,” Malloy said in a recent interview. “They are one of the few companies in the world that can do that. Cisco created a lot of awareness and demand for quality of experience. That, along with continued globalization, the misery of air travel, the need to limit carbon emissions, last summer’s high cost of gas, and now a lousy economy created the snowball for telepresence sales.”
Some telepresence service providers do see an upside to a down economy, and LifeSize is no exception, although Malloy focuses more on steady growth. “We have shipped for three years, we have more than 20,000 systems in operation to 5000 distinct customers in 30 countries,” he said.
Stifel Nicolaus analyst Sanjiv Wadhwani recently noted in a research report that LifeSize is making inroads in the market and competing well with the likes of Tandberg and Polycom, two experienced videoconference players, because of the price and performance of the LifeSize systems.
“LifeSize continues to gain significant traction in the market due to its
attractive price/performance ratio,” Wadhwani noted. “Our checks show that in a recent [request for proposals] in Southern California, LifeSize was less than half the cost of a comparable system from Tandberg. LifeSize has many customer wins including Activision, Disney and Lucas Films and is making inroads at companies
that have deployed systems from Polycom or Tandberg.”
In taking on not just Cisco but also experienced videoconference players Polycom and Tandberg, LifeSize is emphasizing its experience with high-quality video systems and what it considers a better value. The company promises standards compliance and interoperability with other standards-based systems.
“What differentiates LifeSize is the quality of experience we provide, which is best in class no matter what the price point,” Malloy said. “You can’t get a better video and audio experience from any vendor at any price. For the price of two Cisco telepresence systems, you could deploy 100 of our Express systems.”
Flexibility and price performance are two other LifeSize advantages, according to Malloy. “Our [high-definition] video communications systems can be deployed in any environment – office, home office, conference or meeting room or auditorium, and it can be delivered over any network, the public Internet or private IP networks, at any bandwidth from 128 [kilobits per second]. Wherever you want to have a telepresence experience, it’s easy have it up and running in five minutes.”
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