Cisco CTO reasserts video's value for work, home

Making video tech simple to use is what will distinguish Cisco as a leader, Warrior says

Pure Digital Flip Mino - the future of video chat?

Pure Digital Flip Mino - the future of video chat?

BOSTON -- Cisco Systems Inc. CTO Padmasree Warrior today stressed the importance of video and collaboration technologies to the networking giant, as well as its customers.

"Video is really going to become a game-changer in enterprises and connected life," Warrior said in a roundtable discussion with reporters during the Cisco Partner Summit 2009 here. "Video is a big priority [at Cisco]."

Building on its "connected life" slogan, Cisco this year purchased Pure Digital, the maker of the popular Flip handheld HD videocamera. Warrior today noted how simple the device is to use, making it an obvious means for average consumers, even children, to create their own content.

In fact, making video technology simple to use is what will distinguish Cisco as a leader in the field, Warrior added. Success in marketing video technology, whether for mobile video chat users or high-end telepresence videoconferencing systems, "comes down to making the experience simple," she said. "The Flip is so attractive and easy to use that my eight-year-old neice could use it."

She said that for mobile video chat to really take off, phone makers still need to incorporate video software in devices, and next-generation wireless networks need to provide faster speeds for uploading and downlaoding video.

Warrior said that Cisco executives, including CEO John Chambers, are video-blogging to fellow workers with ideas. "John just takes his Flip and records a blog," she said.

Even though Cisco has purchased the Flip maker, Warrior suggested the device is not going to be the centerpiece of its video effort. "Flip is more about an architecture [for Cisco], and less about the device itself," Warrior said. "One piece [of Cisco's interest] is user-generated content and how to capture that on the go, and there's a big demand for that, but it's also extending the architecture to everything from user-generated video to high-end telepresence."

Warrior said she recently recorded a 10-minute Flip video segment that was shown to a team of workers in Bangalore, since she could not make the trip there. It was high density video, but because of the nature of the Flip "it was more personal and not done in a studio. The most natural way to communicate is over video, other than face-to-face."

Asked whether average companies are going to warm to video-blogging or high-end videoconferencing over expensive monitors in specially-lit rooms, Warrior said, "We feel we've crossed the chasm, since more and more companies are deploying videoconferencing for business use."

And the economic downturn has played a role. Cisco itself has saved US$300 million in travel costs, with videoconferencing replacing actual conferencing over the last two years.

In one example, she said 3,000 Cisco executives attended a virtual conference earlier this year that included video feeds and other media. The result was that the conference cost one-fourth of what an actual conference would have cost, and the satisifaction level was "as good or higher." A spokesman added that Cisco saved US$2 million on that conference, with costs going from US$2,800 per person to US$680.

For its telepresence systems, Cisco now has 300 business customers, with six deploying 50 units and a "handful" with more than 100 units. A telepresence system from Cisco with three high-resolution displays and a full room-size environment can cost more than US$200,000.

Warrior said she has used a telepresence system inside a special clinic at Cisco offices in San Jose, Calif., to talk to a doctor live. She said she was heading off on a business trip and only had time to visit the clinic, where her vital signs were taken by a nurse and transmitted to the doctor in a remote location. "I had a cold and wanted to make sure it wasn't something worse," she said.

The doctor told her that her problem wasn't serious and she could travel. "If I had had to drive to the doctor for that, I wouldn't have done so," she said.

The experience of the telepresence with the doctor was more valuable than a simple phone call, she said. "There's a lot of nonverbal communication. When we sit across a room, even in a meeting, video can help see if people are rolling their eyes or reading a mobile device. Some research says that the majority of communication is actually nonverbal. Nothing replaces consulting face-to-face, but videoconferencing augments.

While some companies worry about interoperability of videoconferencing products and systems, Cisco sees an opportunity to improve interoperability with new technology, she said. Cisco will be working with service providers to provide videoconferencing services to help reduce problems with interoperability.

On another topic, Warrior said that Cisco is highly committed to LTE technology, even though it recently entered into an agreement to work with Clearwire Inc. in providing WiMax technology for Clearwire's nationwide network.

"We're completely supportive of both technologies and work with customers of both," Warrior said.

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