Telepresence is Dead

Michael Helmbrecht, VP & GM Video Solutions, LifeSize

It lived a good life. It showed people what video technology could unleash by putting training wheels on the video communications experience while adding cost, complexity and inflexibility. It was a solution for the select few. We thank telepresence – the three-screen, mirrored room, luxe video conferencing category – for giving the market a proof of concept. But its 15 minutes have come to a timely end.

Recently, there’s been a lot of industry buzz around both the Forbes contributed article and some new research that several analyst firms have debuted on the global video conferencing and telepresence market.

According to Frost & Sullivan, immersive telepresence remains a niche solution due to its exorbitantly high costs to purchase and operate. The firm reported that revenue growth from multi-codec immersive telepresence systems was significantly lower than the revenue growth in single-codec room systems in 2011. Further, Wainhouse Research reported a 16.3% year-over-year decline worldwide in the telepresence category.

So why is telepresence becoming obsolete?

The answer comes down to the two most valuable aspects of any company’s business: time and money. Let’s break it down.

According to Gartner, the total cost of deploying a single immersive telepresence suite (in just one room) can range in list price from $200,000 to $700,000. Tack on the managed service elements (which can average about $12,000 per system, per month with dedicated network bandwidth) and you’re looking at one hefty, ongoing price tag.

Businesses simply can’t justify the staggering costs to deploy telepresence. And honestly even if they could afford to, why would they? Is nearly half a million dollars really justifiable when all you need is to connect disparate teams to collaborate over just-as-good-as-being-there video?

There’s a better way

The time has come to enable companies to reap the rewards of the “telepresence promise” that’s within reach for every business. Organizations need technology that improves productivity, increases face-to-face communication and speeds up decision making at a price point that makes sense. You shouldn’t be bound by the technology you’re using; it should enhance the way you work. Being able to have a video call with any vendor, client or colleague (no matter what device they’re using) is no longer a nice-to-have option. It should be a requirement – anyone, anywhere, on any device. That’s why we developed the LifeSize Unity Series, a new product line that brings the quality of the telepresence experience with a price point that’s within reach for any-sized company.

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7 Responses to Telepresence is Dead

  1. Jim Dueltgen says:

    I find it incredibly sad that Lifesize has abandoned telepresence as a solution. It was expensive yes, but you did it so much cheaper, better, and more flexibly than the competition that it was not exorbitant and no where near “staggering.” That’s Cisco you’re talking about, not Lifesize. What’s even sadder is that that used to be Lifesize’s pitch. It makes your pronouncement of the “timely end” of telepresence seem pretty disingenuous. Our Lifesize telepresence rooms (the original mirrored room definition with four screens and three codecs) are in constant use at my organization and play a vital role in keeping our geographically distant offices in close communication. Single-screen video, no matter how high the quality, will never come close to the ease of use and power of interaction that a telepresence room has. I accept your arguments that the market for telepresence wasn’t really mature and broad enough at the start and that it ushered in cheaper, higher-quality single screen video conferencing, but I firmly believe that dedicated telepresence rooms will come back into fashion after the thrill of cheap video phone calls wears off, especially for group meetings. Telepresence comes far closer to “just-as-good-as-being-there video” than any single screen system ever will.

    • jzellman says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Jim. It’s great to hear that your organization is using a LifeSize telepresence room and the technology is helping your employees collaborate across remote offices. That’s definitely our goal: to help organizations be more productive and efficient irrespective of distance. It will be interesting to see how the telepresence market changes over the next few years. LifeSize will continue to offer video solutions with stunning video and audio, as well as scalable, secure infrastructure solutions – even if they are not traditional “telepresence” offerings. We appreciate your comment, and thank you for reading our blog.

  2. jzellman says:

    Thanks so much for your comments. The goal of this particular post was not to discuss LifeSize solutions per se, but rather to discuss this industry trend and our thoughts on it. I noticed that you have a background in healthcare technology, we’d love to know your thoughts on video conferencing and its role in telehealth.

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