Cisco and Tandberg Prepare to Dominate Business Video Market

By Jessica Davis

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."

This article was originally published on 2010-04-29