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Vu TelePresence: Ready for Managed Services Providers?

October 13, 2010 | Chris Payatagool
 by Joe Panettieri via MSPmentor

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Vu Telepresence, the video conferencing company closely related to Zenith Infotech, stepped into the keynote spotlight this morning at the Tigerpaw User Conference in Dallas. The company's pitch was pretty simple: Until now, telepresence has been too expensive and too complex for small businesses to deploy, Vu claims. Hardly surprising, Vu believes it has solved those issues, and sees telepresence as the next natural managed service for MSPs. Here's the Vu pitch and MSPmentor's insights.

Let's start with the challenges. According to Vu's Clinton Gatewood (a Zenith Infotech veteran), several factors have held back telepresence so far:

    * Cost of equipment: single screens can cost $10,000 and a telepresence room can cost $150,000
    * Cost of bandwidth: Most telepresence systems don't work too well over the traditional Internet, Gatewood said. The systems typically need a T1 connection or better, and low-end consumer offerings are susceptible to jitter and packet loss.
    * Complexity of setup

Now, the Pitch

Despite those challenges, Gatewood says the telepresence market is set to double in size, reaching about $3.5 billion in 2013 up form $1.6 billion today. Vu's goal is to upend traditional telepresence player like Cisco-Tandberg, Polycom and Logitech-Lifesize.

Gatewood claims Vu Telepresence is:

    * Affordable ($79 per end user per month, with roughly 30 percent margin reserved for VARs and MSPs)
    * Easy to use and setup
    * Designed as a hosted, managed telepresence service
    * Easy for inter-company telepresence, thanks to a Vu-provided number to dial (rather than an IP address to remember)
    * Ubiquitous, thanks to so-called Vu Telepoints, which are public telepresence rooms

Please note: Since I don't have personal experience with Vu Telepresence, I cannot personally verify Gatewood's claims.
MSPmentor's Spin

On the one hand, consumer video could cannibalize portions of the telepresence market. Free Skype video and other services are "good enough" for many web-based video conversations. But by the end of November, Gatewood says Vu will introduce a free web client for users that want to mix and max between the full-blown Vu Telepresence experience and simple video conferencing.

My key question for readers: Have you ever participated in a telepresence session hosted by Vu TelePresence and/or its rivals? If not, here's a tip: Seeing is believing. I'm not in a position to recommend a specific telepresence service since I've never set up or managed any of the major telepresence options. And I've always maintained that telepresence is an ideal service for MSPs to explore.

Bottom line: Customers are already used to "pay as they go" approaches for phone service and Internet service. Why not add telepresence service to your portfolio before the phone companies beat you to it?

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