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Cisco is hoping to expand its reach in video conferencing by giving away a telepresence protocol that allows Cisco kit to communicate with systems from other vendors.

The network giant also give a peek at its upcoming consumer telepresence products and announced it's rolling out two new high-end video conferencing endpoints claimed to be more energy efficient and easier to set up.

During his keynote at Cisco's annual Networkers Live event in Barcelona, Cisco senior VP of emerging technologies, Marthin De Beer, explained that the company is now sufficiently confident in its market position that it's expanding interoperability efforts.

Cisco will license its Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) to industry rivals and allies alike - royalty free. De Beers said TIP will allow any video conference system to integrate and communicate with both single-screen and multi-screen systems from Cisco.

Thus far, the company has licensed the protocol to LifeSize, Radvision, and Tandberg. But Cisco is in the process of buying Tandberg for $3.4bn, so the former firm signing up isn't much of a win.

De Beers said that Cisco also plans to submit TIP to the industry's standards bodies, but it didn't specify any specific organization. Asked for comment, a Cisco spokeswoman would only say that the company “continues to work with a number of standards bodies to accelerate telepresence interoperability.”

While TIP isn't an open standard itself, Cisco claims it's built upon open standards such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), used for Voice over IP telephony.

De Beer also gave a demonstration of Cisco's forthcoming home video calling products announced earlier this month. The demo involved a math tutor offering interactive lessons delivered and payed for through the system. While De Beer said pricing hasn't been settled, he promised they would be “affordable for the middle-class family.” He also said a 1Mbps broadband connection would the minimum requirement to get the product working properly.

In addition, Cisco announced two new high-end telepresence products, the TP3010 for six seats and the TP3210 for 18 seats. The endpoints build on existing 3000 and 3200 systems, but they are claimed to reduce power consumption by 25 per cent by using LCD and plasma screens rather than projectors. ®

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