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Cisco trials consumer video call gear

Skype, Polycom join in Jetson phone market

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

CES 2010 Cisco plans to begin field trials for a consumer version of its video calling products this spring, joining Skype and Polycom in an emerging battle to turn living room TV sets into Jetsons phones.

The networking equipment giant said Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that the home videoconferencing system will use a consumer's existing HDTV and broadband connection to provide a "unique natural video communication experience from the comfort of a living room."

Cisco will begin conducting field tests this spring, with broadband service provider Verizon as its first partner. Field tests will also be done in France later in 2010, with France Telecom as Cisco's early partner.

"Home telepresence will make a difference in consumers' lives by allowing them to enjoy natural video communications with family and friends wherever they are located," said Marthin DeBeer, general manager of Cisco's Emerging Technologies group in a statement. "To ensure that early home telepresence users will have plenty of friends and family to communicate with, in addition to calling other home telepresence users, they will be able to place calls to PCs using a webcam and video chat service."

Skype, meanwhile, also announced Wednesday its own plans to get into the living room video calling market by inking deals with LG and Panasonic to embed its video chat client into new television by the middle of 2010.

Earlier this week, IBM said it teamed with Polycom to demonstrate a home video calling system at CES too. Polycom co-founder and CTO Jeff Rodman told El Reg that an actual consumer product using the technology has not been announced, but that the showing demonstrates a direction the company will take going forward. ®

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