Telepresence: Communication Via AV/IT
Mar 31, 2011 10:55 AM,
by Cynthia Wisehart
Telepresence is calling. Kevin Kelly, President and COO for value-added AV distributor Stampede is candid that the dealers he supports are changing their businesses in the face of a long recession. They’re looking at new opportunities, or more accurately responding better to existing ones.
Some of the telepresence opportunities are longer range—the Telework Enhancement Law of 2010 and the rise of telemedicine should translate to demand in government and healthcare markets. But closer to home for many of Stampede’s dealers is the simple expectation that corporate board rooms will have a video conferencing capability. That’s already part of everyday reality.
In fact, Kelly says the feedback from his dealers was that videoconferencing was the fastest growing part of their business. With that in mind, the company made it an explicit strategy for 2011—and so last month announced that it had acquired Spire Global, the exclusive US distributor of Sony’s IPELA IP-based video conferencing products. Spire Global will continue to operate as a dedicated business unit; Stampede will maintain a dedicated Sony video conferencing sales force, with the Spire Global staff serving to support both that sales team and existing accounts.
Kelly says a big goal of the acquisition strategy was to immediately support any AV dealer regardless of size to participate in the telepresence market opportunity. He understands that the ability to offer sales support via education and demos as well as technical support after the sale will be key to dealer confidence in selling these solutions. Product and training classes specific to Sony video conferencing will be offered to dealers at all of Stampede’s upcoming Big Book of AV dealer shows and through Stampede University. Also, last month Stampede reached agreement with their bank HSBC for a 75 percent increase in working capital. With a reported 25 percent growth in revenue last year, Stampede is charting an aggressive strategy and in the process placing a significant bet on telepresence.
Stampede isn’t the only company bullish on telepresense. Last month AVI-SPL added HD-platform provider BurstPoint Networks to its telepresence partner program and last week co-presented a webcast with Polycom on E-learning. The next day, Polycom announced that it acquired Accordant Technologies—a provider of video content management and delivery solutions—for about $50 million cash. And this morning as we go to press, IT systems integration giant CSC reached out to our little industry to unveil its TelePresence as a Service (TaaS) offering, an end-to-end managed video conferencing solution based on the Cisco TelePresence product suite.
So telepresence like many things presents a new technical landscape with a wide learning curve. And, like so much of what we do now, it’s a cross-disciplne opportunity so it will be competitive. Like digital signage—and faster—it will go far beyond its original concept and will in some ways subsume what we have come to regard as Pro AV, as communication increasingly becomes interactive AV on a network.