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Cisco makes TelePresence personal

The new version of the high-definition video conferencing system is designed for personal use and costs less than $35,000.

Network equipment maker Cisco Systems introduced a simpler, cheaper version of its high-end video conferencing system on Monday.

The new Telepresence System 500 is a less expensive version of the telepresence product Cisco launched in 2006. Cisco's telepresence system was developed using high-definition screens and cameras, array speakers, and high-speed Internet connections to provide crystal clear video conferences that could replace the need for executives to travel halfway around the world to meet with colleagues, partners, or customers. The idea is that if companies can conduct business virtually they can save a whole lot of money on traveling.

Cisco TelePresence 500 Cisco Systems

Video conferencing has become a big part of Cisco's strategy moving forward. Last year, the company acquired online video and audio conferencing company WebEx. While WebEx allows for video conferences to be launched straight from the desktop, it's not meant to replicate in-person meetings. Still, it fits into Cisco's overall strategy, which is to improve worker productivity by allowing people in different locations to collaborate using the Internet.

The original version of the telepresence product was developed for small groups. It requires an entire room be dedicated to setting up the system, and it is expensive. The latest version of the product is expected to appeal to a broader audience and is designed to be used by one person.

The TelePresence System 500 integrates a 37-inch display, camera, microphone array, speakers, and specially designed lighting in a unit that can be placed on a desk, mounted on the wall, or stood on a pedestal in a private office. It will cost $33,900, which is less than half the cost of the most basic version of the TelePresence 1000, which was designed for about two people to a unit.

In addition to taking telepresence down to the personal level, Cisco introduced a version of the product that can accommodate larger groups of people. The Cisco TelePresence 3200 is designed for up to 18 people and is a step up from the TelePresence 3000, which was designed for six people. The 3200 version will cost $340,000, compared with $299,000 for the 3000.

Cisco TelePresence 3200 Cisco Systems

The company said the new Cisco TelePresence 3200 is ideal for company headquarters or large regional offices where large teams need to collaborate. It also is good for remote training.

Cisco has had good success with its TelePresence offering so far. And last month Cisco said it was teaming up with AT&T to jointly sell its telepresence products.

Cisco competes with a slew of companies in this market, including Hewlett-Packard, Polycom, and Teliris. Verizon Business, a unit of Verizon Communications, also sells a video conferencing service.

On Monday, Teliris announced a product designed for "personal" telepresence. Its product lists for $32,500. It also introduced a version for larger groups, which includes two or three screens. It costs between $99,000 and $125,000 and does not require a separate room dedicated to the system.