Cisco hits the upgrade button again on its collaboration portfolio

LAS VEGAS — Cisco Systems announced a series of enhancements to its collaboration portfolio today, including three new products, several software upgrades and a new partnership with Microsoft.

The news was presented by Cisco’s relatively new collaboration duo, Amy Chang and Sri Srinivasan,

Chang, Cisco’s executive vice-president and general manager of collaboration, began Tuesday morning’s general session by highlighting the company’s double digit growth across collaboration, noting that the feedback from last year’s partner summit didn’t fall on deaf ears.

“We made you some promises…and you responded – behave as part of an ecosystem and make sure that every part of the system works with what customers already have in place,” said Chang, acknowledging Cisco’s confusing collaboration portfolio that, for years, featured disparate brands like Spark, which until last year, was powered by servers in public clouds, but wasn’t making use of the Webex backbone.

But Cisco research suggests communication experiences in the workplace remain highly fragmented.

On average, organizations use more than five conferencing services, according to a Cisco Broadsoft survey, and maintenance costs continue to sap the life out of their wallets.

Sri Srinivasan, senior vice-president and general manager of Webex Meetings, Teams, Calling and Devices, explains how the unified app can be fully white-labeled by Cisco partners. Photo by Cisco.

Cisco’s “Single Platform Advantage”, which was hinted at in June during Cisco Live, was touted once again on stage at Partner Summit. It’s essentially Cisco’s latest effort to make the vendor’s various collaboration products feel like they’re cut from the same cloth, while offering those tools in a modular fashion, allowing IT to configure the single app to align it with a group’s specific needs or workstyles.

Srinivasan, senior vice-president and general manager of Webex Meetings, Teams, Calling and Devices, joined Chang on stage and explained how the unified app can be fully white-labeled by Cisco partners.

“Your app, powered by Cisco Webex, for our customers,” he said. “Underneath the surface, this unified platform takes an API-first approach. Now, Cisco collaboration can be embedded directly into the business processes our users are living in.”

Chang and Srinivasan also pointed out Cisco’s focus on cloud calling.

The New Cisco Webex Edge for Calling solutions delivers a unified experience on top of existing Cisco and third-party products, meaning IT departments can unify disparate environments and take advantage of Webex cloud services to deliver global dial plans, least-cost routing and centralized services.

The two also announced Cisco’s latest partnership with Microsoft that enables Cisco’s Webex video devices to connect to the Microsoft Teams meeting services, and vice versa.

New hardware

“I have something incredible for everyone in this room,” an excited Srinivasan told audience members as he revealed the Webex Desk Pro. “It’s an instant office.”

The 27-inch device features a 4K touchscreen with a USB-C connection, is web-app enabled, and works not only with Webex, but with any conferencing service – including Microsoft.

During a demonstration, a remote caller dialed in to say hello, while showing off some interesting features, including the ability to blur out the background or select a virtual one, a feature that is sure to come in handy when it comes to hiding the office clutter before a call.

Cisco also unveiled a new Bluetooth headset, as well as Webex Panorama, a device dedicated to large boardroom meetings.

Availability for the hardware devices are as follows:

  • Webex Desk Pro – general availability February 2020
  • Webex Panorama – general availability, first half of 2020
  • Headset 700 series – general availability, December 2019

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Alex Coop
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