Cisco chief exec Chambers says videoconferencing on planes in 18 months

In-flight Internet access may enable videoconferencing on board aeroplanes, according to Cisco chief executive John Chambers.

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In-flight Internet access may enable videoconferencing on board aeroplanes, effectively closing off one of the last refuges from meetings for business travellers, according to Cisco chief executive John Chambers.

During a keynote at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Chambers continued to make the argument that videoconferencing can significantly reduce corporate travel.

He claimed that Cisco has cut its own travel by 30 percent, thereby saving about $150 million (£87 million), through the use of its TelePresence high-definition videoconferencing system.

"I want to be on a plane and have TelePresence in front of me," quipped Thomas Bittman, one of the Gartner analysts who interviewed Chambers on stage.

"Well, the answer is, you are probably going to," said Chambers, who predicted that the arrival of Wi-Fi services and other types of Internet connections on planes will enable travellers to hook up devices to the web - potentially moving in-flight Internet access well beyond mere entertainment options.

Chambers said he sees such capabilities becoming available within 18 months or so.

The Cisco chief executive bucked the economic gloom and doom by saying that he plans to expand Cisco's IT spending during 2009. "We are going to grow our expenses in IT, regardless of what the economy does, by 10 percent next year," he said.

But Chambers advised IT managers that budget cuts are likely at companies where IT is primarily viewed as an expense. At businesses where technology is seen as "the enabler of business strategy", he said, economic slowdowns can be used to "gain huge competitive advantage".

For instance, a chief information officer can make an argument for increasing IT spending if he tells his company's chief executive that doing so could help grow business activity by five to 10 percent, or "dramatically reduce the risk" involved in combining two companies that are being merged, Chambers said.

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