Regus, the serviced office provider, is to deploy Polycom telepresence suites in at least 30 locations worldwide, beginning in London this summer.
The Polycom deal is worth more than £30 million over five years, involves Polycom equipment and Cable&Wireless network infrastructure, and replaces a 2007 arrangement to install Cisco Systems products, according to Regus CEO Mark Dixon.
Cisco launched its TelePresence Meeting system in late 2006, with a price tag of almost £400,000 for two rooms, promising a more lifelike experience than traditional videoconferencing.
In March 2007, just months after the system was introduced, Cisco announced that Regus would set up TelePresence suites in 50 locations around the world. But the suites were never set up. Cisco's technology ended up being too hard to implement, and Regus was concerned about interoperability with other vendors' videoconferencing and telepresence systems.
"It was not possible to execute, in terms of the equipment," Dixon said. "Maybe too early stage, I don't know." There were "technical hitches and all kinds of hitches," Dixon said, without going into detail.
"For us, it's ease of operation," Dixon said. "We're a normal company. If we have things that are too complicated to execute on and to implement, then in a way, that defeats the object of why you're doing what you're doing. It's to simplify your life, not to make it more complicated."
Dixon described the failed rollout as frustrating. "In the end, we didn't go ahead because life got too complicated. ... We moved on with our lives. ... We spent a lot of time on it, and it didn't come to anything."
Regus began looking for alternatives immediately, and it worked with Polycom for about a year on the new deal, which was announced last week. Regus is a long-time Polycom customer, having offered videoconferencing systems from the vendor for about 15 years, Dixon said.
Cisco refused to comment on deal, referring questions to Regus but the company expressed optimism about its public telepresence business.
"Cisco sees a significant opportunity in providing telepresence suites for public use and is continuing to look for new ways to extend this technology to more people in more places through the help of key partners," the company said in a written statement.