John Chambers, the chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, used to call telepresence his favorite new technology. In 2006, the year Cisco unveiled videoconferencing hardware priced as high as $300,000 per system, Chambers said it would set records for how fast it became a $1 billion business. “This is the first time in my career that I have seen this type of excitement and interest from CEOs for a technology,” he said a year later on an earnings call.
It turns out CEO enthusiasm isn’t enough to sustain a market. Cisco’s telepresence revenue has been mired in a two-year slump, adding to the company’s broader struggle to reverse sales declines. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Brent Bracelin estimates that the products accounted for 1 percent to 2 percent of Cisco’s $12.1 billion in quarterly revenue. (The company doesn’t disclose sales from telepresence.)