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For Cisco partners who sold the company’s
Telepresence system, the acquisition and integration of Tandberg was welcome
news. And with the deal completed just a few weeks ago, Cisco at its partner
conference this week shed some light on the integration of partner programs
going forward and announced a new discount for channel partners.
Cisco will be offering a telepresence starter kit through the channel at 70
percent off the original price. Designed to “take Telepresence all the way down
to the desktop,” the package includes 50 mobile licenses and usually sells for
about $40,000, but is now offered at $13,000.

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It’s part of Cisco’s push to use video to make the deal grow bigger,
according to Keith Goodwin, senior vice president of Cisco’s Worldwide Partner
Organization, who provided channel partners with some details about how the
partner programs of the two companies would be merged in the months to come
during this week’s Cisco Partner Summit.

Right now the two programs will be run in parallel to preserve Tandberg partner
margins. When the programs are merged in six to nine months, there will be two
tiers of products, A and B, which will offer different margins, with an eye to
preserving Tandberg product margins for partners, said Edison Peres, senior
vice president of Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Organization, Go-to-Market
strategy.

Former Tandberg CEO Frederick Halvorsen, now
senior vice president of the Cisco Telepresence Group, was also on hand at the
partner summit this week and noted that Tandberg ran 100 percent of sales
through the channel.

“Cisco and Tandberg have quite a few common partners,” he said.

One of those common partners is $1.1 billion Presidio Networked Solutions,
whose CTO views the Cisco acquisition of
Tandberg as removing a major obstacle to selling video into businesses. While
Cisco sales represent 65 percent of Presidio’s revenues, selling Cisco’s
high-end Telepresence rooms hasn’t been easy.

“Cisco has struggled mightily, and we have struggled with them,” Dave Hart,
Presidio CTO, told Channel Insider. “If you
wanted a Cisco-based video strategy, you had high-end Telepresence rooms with
an immersive experience—no doubt terrific—or you had desktop video with WebEx,
but really nothing in between.”

Tandberg fills out the middle for Cisco, and Hart says there is very little
overlap between the product lines of the two companies that are now one.

“The sum of them represents a complete end-to-end desktop through Telepresence
immersive experience,” he said.

Telepresence competitor Polycom’s Vice President of Channels Ron Myers told
Channel Insider that this consolidation of Cisco and Tandberg also represents
an opportunity for his company.

“With the consolidation taking place, they will go through a lot of integration
challenges,” he said, pointing to Polycom’s “clean product road map” and
Polycom Open Collaboration Network.

Plus, the marketing might that Cisco is putting behind video right now will
benefit the entire telepresence and video conferencing market, not just Cisco.

“Cisco is raising awareness of video,” Myers said. “There’s a spillover effect.
We are a major player, and we are standards-based.”

And with that extra marketing power in the market, plus businesses on the cusp
of coming out of the recession, Myers said Polycom saw a “tremendous” fourth
quarter.

“Channel partners are seeing dramatic improvements in their pipelines,” Myers
said. “We are feeling the benefits of all this.”

Presidio’s Hart said that the technology integration between Cisco’s and
Tandberg’s products won’t be too difficult, but it will require a more robust
set of management tools and then integration with unified communication
managers.

But overall, Hart says the acquisition is likely to mean an easier sale of
Telepresence.

“We’re thrilled with this acquisition because how Cisco managed the
Telepresence channel was very challenging,” he said. “There were a lot of
restrictive rules that made it difficult to have a strong global presence
around telepresence. We are hoping that as part of this with a much broader
portfolio it will be easier to have a conversation. We will be able to have a
true video communications strategy with a customer that we can roll out.”