Cisco Systems is continuing to revamp its collaboration portfolio with a new high-end TelePresence system that officials say brings with it a better experience and improved cost efficiencies and a new mobile app that enables greater conferencing capabilities from any device.
At the same time, Cisco officials also are partnering with Box to integrate the cloud storage vendor’s technology with Cisco’s mobile app Project Squared. Through the integration, content from a user’s Box files is available on any device when using the Project Squared app.
Company executives, including CEO John Chambers and Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group, made the announcements Nov. 17 at the start of the company’s three-day Collaboration Summit 2014 in Los Angeles.
“What we’re trying to address is the way work has changed,” Chris Wiborg, director of collaboration portfolio marketing, told eWEEK.
Employees today tend to work on multiple projects and move from device to device, and in the days of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), they no longer rely only on notebooks, tablets or smartphones given them by the company.
“The days of ‘here’s your company-issued computer, go get it done’ are over,” Wiborg said.
The problem now is that they don’t have the tools—particularly outside the corporate firewall—to get their work done, he said.
Video collaboration—which includes being able to see everyone in the meeting, easily setting up and joining a meeting, sharing files and saving content—continues to be a priority for businesses, according to IDC analysts. However, the market is undergoing rapid change, with businesses moving away from room-based systems and embracing software- and cloud-based solutions, the analysts have said. Traditional video conferencing vendors such as Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize Communications are seeing increased competition from smaller players like Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network, which offer software- and cloud-only solutions.
Cisco and others have aggressively added software and cloud capabilities to their portfolios. However, Cisco officials have said that businesses are looking for a mix of hardware and software, and want not only the ease of use found in consumer systems, but also enterprise-level security and manageability. That is what the company is offering with the new products, Wiborg said.
With Project Squared, Cisco is offering a mobile app that is built upon Cisco’s new Collaboration Cloud—part of Cisco’s larger Intercloud initiative—that company officials said enables a broad range of collaboration capabilities taken from Cisco’s Web conferencing, telepresence, unified communications and voice solutions while offering high levels of security.
The app, which is available now, combines video and audio with content sharing, multiparting meetings and chat. Using Project Squared, users can start a virtual room and invite others inside or outside the organization to join by using their names or email addresses. Once in the room, participants can collaborate and share content securely, with files put into the cloud. They can be viewed alongside messages and don’t need to be downloaded.
Cisco Grows Collaboration Lineup With Mobile App, Room System
The app can be used from most devices and also is accessible via a Web browser. Plus, it integrates with such tools as calendars, Active Directory and WebEx. For security, the Collaboration Cloud platform brings content encryption, and IT departments can require employees to use their corporate single sign-on credentials and passwords.
Wiborg also said Cisco officials want the Project Squared platform to evolve through input from users.
“We want to get feedback … to continue to refine it over time,” he said.
On the other end is the new TelePresence IX5000 series room-based system for six to 18 people that comes with three 70-inch screens, three 4K cameras and a high-end audio system with an integrated array of microphones, 18 custom speakers and a subwoofer.
It also addresses the issue of total cost of ownership that is raised by room systems, Wiborg said. It requires half the bandwidth, with H.265 compression, of previous Cisco systems and less power—less than 10 amps—than is needed to run a hair dryer, he said. It’s fewer than 8 inches wide, doesn’t require remodeling of rooms to be used, and can be set up by two people in eight hours, which Cisco officials said is half the time than other systems require.
Cisco engineers also sought to make the IX5000 easier to use than previous systems, Wiborg said. By integrating WebEx with TelePresence, users can present content during meetings by connecting to a WiFi network. Where WebEx for TelePresence isn’t used, the new system offers a universal video adapter. The adapter then retracts into the IX5000’s tabletop when it’s not being used.
Wiborg said that despite the numbers that show global sales of room-based systems are falling, there are still industries—including financial services and retail—that still use such solutions, and that there are use cases like mergers and acquisitions where mobile video meetings are not adequate.
“We do still believe there’s a place for this type of high-end system,” he said.