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Network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc on
Monday unveiled an expansion of its high-end video conferencing series
to include a simpler, cheaper version as well as one targeting big

The company introduced a video conferencing system called
TelePresence in 2006 featuring life-size, high-definition screens and
easy-to-use dial-in features.

Sales, which had initially been limited to a number of global
companies, have been picking up. Rivalry with other video conferencing
providers has also heated up as more companies expand globally and seek
to cut travel costs.

Cisco said the new products would broaden the system’s appeal. The
TelePresence System 500 will be suited for personal use and, at a list
price of $33,900, cost less than half the previously most basic
version, TelePresence 1000, which was designed for about two people to
a unit.

"We expect the 500 to be the volume product for sure, pretty soon.
That’s because people will put it in their home offices, small
businesses, private offices, kiosks and branches," said Charles Stucki,
vice president of Cisco’s TelePresence business unit.

The Cisco 3200, also unveiled on Monday, will be able to host larger
groups and will be offered as a step up from the TelePresence 3000,
which was designed for six people. The new product will triple capacity
and cost $340,000, compared with $299,000 for the 3000.

Stucki said the 3200, which features new microphone and camera lens
technology to handle more participants, would be useful for training
and large meetings.

The announcement comes after Cisco announced a tie-up with the top
U.S. phone company, AT&T Inc, last month to sell TelePresence
together, a move that boosted its sales force.

Rivals include Hewlett-Packard Co, Polycom Inc and Teliris. Verizon
Business, a unit of Verizon Communications Inc and an AT&T rival,
also offers some video conferencing services.

In addition to developing TelePresence, Cisco last year acquired
online video and audio conferencing company WebEx. Unlike TelePresence,
however, it does not seek to replicate in-person meetings.

"Over time, TelePresence and WebEx will get more integrated," Stucki
said, but added that for now, "TelePresence is when you need to be
there. WebEx is for other types of collaboration when you can’t."

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