Telepresence -- the next-generation video conferencing technology -- is on a collision course with managed services and recurring revenue. The reason: Zenith Infotech, as expected, has launched Vu Telepresence offerings that apparently undercut traditional telepresence prices. Here are the details, which also include some hardware as a service (HaaS) opportunities.

Zenith Infotech demonstrated Vu Telepresence today at the Autotask Community Live conference in Miami. Roughly 500 MSPs, VARs and channel partners are attending the event.

What's the Opportunity?

Clinton Gatewood, VP of corporate development at Zenith Infotech, says there's a gap in the telepresence market.

At the very low-end, Skype video is ideal for friends and family and some limited business communications -- but it doesn't really fit the need for multi-company, professional big-screen video, said Gatewood. At the higher end, offerings from Cisco Systems, Tandberg, Polycom and other big-name vendors aren't easy to manage, Gatewood asserted. "We see a huge gap in the market between the low-end and the high-end," said Gatewood. "And we're aiming to democratize telepresence across the globe."

With that goal in mind, Zenith offers Vu Telepresence Pro, which costs $2000 for an outright purchase or $99 per month customer fee for a 24-month payment plan. The monthly HaaS (hardware as a service) approach costs VARs and MSPs $59, allowing partners to pocket $40 per month per location in margin ($99 customer fee minus $59 partner fee), said Gatewood. The Vu Telepresence offering delivers 720 DPI right now, with 1080 DPI late this year, and requires a 700Kbps shared line.

A Vu Telepresence Premier offing will cost $4000 outright or $199 per month for a 24-month commitment. The monthly HaaS approach costs VARs and MSPs $119 per month, allowing partners to pocket $80 per month in margin per location ($199 customer fee minus $119 partner fee), added Gatewood.

I have to double-check availability of the Pro and Premier. But it sounds like sales volumes will ramp up considerably mid-2010.

Room Rentals?

Meanwhile, Zenith Infotech also expects to line up about 150 to 200 channel partners to install and run Vu Telepresence within their own offices. Those channel partners will be able to charge visitors roughly $150 to $250 per hour per link to use the telepresence rooms, said Gatewood.

Also of note, Gatewood says channel partners can use the telepresence rooms to attract C-level customers into their offices and then up-sell them on additional services -- such as Zenith Infotech BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery).

True believers in the strategy include Mike Cooch, CEO of Everon Technology Services. Everon already leverages Zenith Infotech's managed services and BDR platforms. Plus, Cooch is working with Zenith Infotech's CEO on Kutenda, an online marketing platform for VARs and MSPs. Cooch says he's keeping a close eye on Zenith's telepresence offering, and sees it as a potential fit for Everon's expanding HaaS strategy. Everon currently works with CharTec, a HaaS specialist, on recurring revenue opportunities.

New Revenue Streams

Zenith Infotech's Vu Telepresence strategy is the latest in a growing list of efforts by Zenith to diversify its revenue stream. Maurice Saluan, VP of sales and channel management, says Zenith Infotech's managed services and BDR businesses continue to enjoy strong growth. Also, Zenith's SmartStyle cloud and virtualization technology is expected to shift into mass production by mid-2010.

Sign up for MSPmentorā€™s weekly Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center. And follow us via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; and Twitter. Plus, check out more MSP voices at www.MSPtweet.com.