Cisco, HP telepresence and swine flu

Forbes has a timely piece today on how telepresence and virtual conferencing can help companies reduce travel and spare their employees from the recent outbreak of swine flu. Such an event might beneficial to Cisco, HP and others who make and market telepresence systems for virtual conferencing.

Indeed, the piece quotes Polycom chief Robert Hagerty as saying that disasters drove videoconferencing -- 9/11, the SARS outbreak, the current economic downturn, and now swine flu. After the disaster subsides, the technology becomes mainstream.  

Cisco argues that, compared with business travel, high-end TelePresence rooms pay for themselves within a year. Polycom's costs about $100 per employee for Webcams and video management software, plus a $3,000 TV/camera system. HP's Halo is also a high-end system which, according to HP, provides a quick payback. Several other firms, like LifeSize, Glowpoint and Tandberg, also offer virtual conferencing systems that allow companies to avoid travel -- and its health consequences.

Seems like a small price to pay when pandemics and epidemics strike.

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