Marriot International trashes telepresence rooms
Cisco kit goes out the window
Cisco’s dream of public telepresence facilities that Joe Public uses for a high-fidelity chat with loved ones or business associates has taken a hit in Asia after hotel chain Marriot booted its kit from hotels across Asia.
Marriot and Cisco announced a tie-up in 2009 and together with AT&T rolled out what they called “Virtual Meeting studios” in the chain's international hotels.
But the studios failed to excite punters, with Marriot and Cisco both sending The Register the same statement that cast the installations as a “pilot program” (although that phrase is hard to find in old PR material) and says “... our customers enjoyed enjoyed hundreds of successful meetings during the pilot program. However customer demand was not high enough in all locations so we have decided not to continue operating the Virtual Meeting studios at Marriott International hotels.”
The Register understands at least seven international hotels offered telepresence, including the Sydney and Shanghai Marriots.
Cisco said it cannot comment on other telepresence bureaux's intentions, but points out a long online list of other public telepresence facilities.
The Register confirmed that the other high profile Australian installation, at Sydney's Sheraton on the Park hotel, remains in place. We also understand that Telstra, another telepresence partner, intends to market the service aggressively later in 2012. ®
We all can do it anyway
With the availability of today's technology, most people can have a private online teleconference as long as they have the right bit of kit (like a cheap laptop) and internet access, which is available in most good hotels (especially those catering for business users). So why pay hotel charges for the dedicated room?
Re: We all can do it anyway
> So why pay hotel charges for the dedicated room?
For the telepresence, which you can't duplicate on kit you carry around. It requires a display big enough to show people at life size, for one thing.
The problem, which Cisco and other vendors (eg Polycom) seem incapable of seeing, is that while telepresence conferencing makes for flashy advertising and plays well with technophile hipsters like the TED folks, many users find it unnecessary or downright annoying. While it's true that gestures, facial expressions, and the like convey a lot of information, it's also true that people have gotten very good at communicating and doing business without those channels.
Telepresence looks like a gimmick to a lot of users, particularly those who've suffered through conventional video conference calls; and the marketing spiel for these systems - that somehow they make your meetings more productive or efficient - sounds condescending.
Kids, lawn, etc.
Telepresence for meetings seemed like a bad fit for hotels anyway - the last thing they would want is one less reason to rent someone a room.