Cisco takes wraps off home TelePresence

Videoconferencing on the TV set.

It's not just Google who has taken the leap into consumer appliances. Just the day after the search company launched the Google TV, Cisco has announced trials of a consumer version of its TelePresence videoconferencing system according to a Reuters report. The company has also announced that TV channel ESPN will be using Telepresence to transmit World Cup football from South Africa.

In January, the company announced that it would be running trials of a home Telepresence system with Verizon in the US and, later in the year, France Telecom.

According to Cisco, simplicity will be the key to the new system. "You would just plug it into your television," Robert Lloyd, Cisco's executive vice president told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco."

The company gave a sneak preview of the new Telepresence terminals at its Cisco Networkers event in Cannes in February. The system will retail at around $500, a far cry from the six-figure sum that businesses expect to pay but probably higher than was expected. In February, Marthin De Beer, Cisco's vice president of emerging technologies said the system would be "affordable for the middle-class family, they're not for the rich."

Analysts, however, have questioned the cost of the system, with simple videoconferencing being readily available. "Five hundred dollars sounds like a boatload of money for that. Particularly since Google and Apple already has video chat," Daniel Ernst, analyst at Hudson Square Research told Reuters.

Cisco is pinning its hopes on the fact that TelePresence will offer more than just netbook-based videoconferencing. For example, the demonstration at Cannes highlighted the educational possibilities of the system by providing home tutorials on a range of topics.

There are also possibilities for home workers. Cisco has been talking up both video and collaboration, two areas that it sees as key technologies for the future and the emergence of a consumer Telepresence system could aid this move towards teleworking.