The Irony of Ash Clouds, Cisco and Tandberg

Any doubt that telepresence is a vital element of an organization's repertoire of communications tools ended this week. The first sign of approval was from Cisco, which closed its acquisition of Tandberg. The second was from Mother Nature, which grounded much of the world's air traffic.

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted Apr 20, 2010
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If executives had planned to get together in San Jose or Oslo for a signing ceremony commemorating the finalization of Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg, the giant ash cloud emanating from Iceland probably would have caused the trip to be cancelled

It is ironic that such an event, albeit an imaginary one, can be used to illustrate one of the strongest rationales for the growth of teleconferencing, which often is a key element of a unified communications infrastructure.

In any case, it's a landmark deal for the telepresence sector. CNET reports that Cisco now has 91.1 percent control of Tandberg, and is moving to acquire the rest. Fredrik Halvorsen, formerly Tandberg's CEO, will become the head of Cisco's TelePresence Group.

That the deal closed is no surprise. The real news of the week, of course, is the ash cloud. Video conferencing and teleconferencing clearly have gained, though vendors and service providers should be careful not to appear to be gloating. Service provider Regus said that its UK and mainland Europe business demand hit an all-time high on Friday, April 16. The firm says travelers in Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh and at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in the UK exhibited the highest demand, and that it anticipates similar demand until the crisis resolves itself.

Once the ash starts flowing, it's not surprising that a service such as Regus would see a huge spike. The organizations that win are those that understand the need for telepresence, video conferencing and associated UC infrastructure when the skies are blue. They also understand that while telepresence and video conferencing clearly can exist outside a UC framework, it makes more sense to create a full infrastructure capable of enabling the tools to be as efficient as possible.

The cloud of ash eventually will dissipate. Just as certainly, other emergencies will occur. The energy that Cisco is giving to the telepresence sector by marrying its traditionally higher-end products with the more cost-efficient Tandberg line – and the competitive responses of competitors – clearly will benefit the business community the next time a mountain explodes.

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