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思科:我们乐于做电话会议领域的兰博基尼

Michal Lev-Ram 2011年06月16日


    购买思科系统(Cisco Systems)的高端视频会议解决方案——思科网真(Telepresence)的似乎都是财力雄厚的公司,如商务软件公司SAP(SAP AG)和美国银行(Bank of America)等。为什么这样说呢?因为,单单在一个房间内实现思科网真所需要安装的屏幕、摄像机、基础设施、灯光和家具就要耗资300,000美元左右。

    因此,视频会议服务领域的规模稍小的公司——如视频会议服务供应商Vidyo公司——正试图用低价战略抢占思科的市场也就不足为奇了。上周,这家位于美国新泽西州的创业公司,推出了VidyoPanorama远程呈现解决方案,这款解决方案的成本更低,更加大众化。该公司表示,VidyoPanorama可同时支持多达20个屏幕(这意味着,在20个不同地方的员工可以同步参加视频会议),而成本却只有当前远程呈现系统(比如思科网真)的10%。

    思科也不甘示弱。作为回应,周二上午,思科发布了一系列与其网真相关的产品,其中包括“思科网真遍天下”(Telepresence Everywhere)终端,这款新产品支持客户更轻松地在多个房间实现远程呈现。

    思科公司的发言人大卫•麦库洛奇在写给《财富》杂志(Fortune)的电子邮件中表示:“价格始终是客户考虑的一个方面,但是,市场开始越来越关注易用性、可集成性和可互操作性,而不是价格。作为最优秀的远程呈现产品供应商,思科占有较大的市场份额。能够在上述三个领域全面领先,我们深感自豪。”

    思科网真是思科协作业务的一个组成部分,过去五个季度,其增长速度约为25%,甚至更高。预计该业务今年将为公司带来40亿美元的收入。但与此同时,网络公司的股价却下跌到了约15美元。思科首席执行官约翰•钱伯斯近期表示,思科需要重新调整产品组合。不过,思科不可能把此项业务廉价出售。公司在远程呈现业务上投资巨大。思科近期进行了一些列多样化的尝试,多数以失败告终(如近期关闭的Flip摄像机业务),而远程呈现业务则是其中为数不多的亮点。

    思科发言人麦库洛奇表示, Vidyo“自然乐于把它的产品与思科最高端的旗舰产品进行比较(以突出其价格优势)。”思科网真确实昂贵,但是思科表示它同时也提供最低价格在300美元左右的视频会议台式机解决方案【2009年收购腾博公司(Tandberg)的成果】。而且,思科可能会在近期继续推出价格更低、更灵活的思科网真。舍得花300,000美元安装视频会议系统的公司毕竟数量有限。

    Vidyo公司的创始人奥弗•夏皮诺表示,公司并不仅仅依靠低廉的价格进行竞争。凭借7,400万美元风险资金的支持,Vidyo已经开发出能够支持多达20个屏幕的远程呈现系统,而不是普通的三屏或四屏解决方案。而且,公司还表示,该系统可以更有效地利用带宽,不需要专门配置价格高昂的网络。

    但是,说到底,价格才是Vidyo最大的竞争优势。

    Vidyo公司的创始人兼首席执行官夏皮诺打了这样一个比方:“他们(思科)卖的是劳斯莱斯和兰博基尼,而我们卖的是本田和讴歌。”

    Buyers of Cisco Systems' (CSCO) high-end videoconferencing solution, TelePresence, tend to be deep-pocketed enterprises like SAP (SAP AG) and Bank of America (BANK). Why? It costs about $300,000 to set up the screens, cameras, infrastructure, lights and furniture necessary to TelePresence-enable just one room.

    So it's no surprise that smaller players--like newcomer Vidyo--are trying to undercut Cisco. Last week the New Jersey-based startup introduced a lower-cost telepresence solution for the masses called VidyoPanorama. According to the company, VidyoPanorama will support as many as 20 screens at a time (meaning employees from 20 different locations can participate in a simultaneous video conference) for as little as 10% of the cost of current telepresence systems like Cisco's.

    Not to be outdone, Cisco responded on Tuesday morning with a flurry of telepresence-related announcements, including the "Telepresence Everywhere" endpoint, a new product that will allow customers to more easily telepresence-enable multiple rooms.

    "Price is always relevant to customers, but this market is rapidly moving beyond price to focus on ease-of-use, ease-of-integration and ease-of-interoperability," David McCulloch, a Cisco spokesperson, wrote to Fortune in an email. "As the number one telepresence vendor by a big share, we feel really good about our leadership in all three areas."

    Telepresence is part of Cisco's collaboration business, which has been growing at about 25% or more during the last five quarters and is on pace to bring in $4 billion in revenues this year. Meanwhile, the networking company's stock has plummeted to about $15, and CEO John Chambers recently said the company needs to refocus its portfolio of products. But it's unlikely that Cisco's collaboration business is going to be sold off. The company has bet big on telepresence—it's one of the few bright spots in its string of failed attempts to diversify (it recently shuttered its Flip video camera business).

    According to McCulloch, Cisco's spokesperson, Vidyo "conveniently compares its offerings to Cisco's top-of-the-range flagship product." TelePresence is costly, but Cisco says it offers a videoconferencing desktop solution (the fruits of its 2009 acquisition of Tandberg) starting at about $300. And it's likely Cisco will keep coming out with cheaper, more flexible versions of TelePresence in the near future. After all, there are only so many companies able to shell out $300,000 for a videoconferencing system.

    Vidyo's founder, Ofer Shapiro, says his company's not just competing on price. With $74 million in venture backing, Vidyo has developed a telepresence system that will allow up to 20 screens instead of the usual three- or four-screen solution. The company also says it uses bandwidth more efficiently and doesn't require any special, costly networks to be deployed.

    But, bottom line, price is Vidyo's big differentiator.

    "They [Cisco] are selling Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis," says Shapiro, Vidyo's founder and CEO. "We're selling the Hondas and Acuras."

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