Cisco beefs up collaboration suite with new features and devices

The company says its Single Platform Advantage will offer a unified experience across calling, messaging, and live meetings.

Why digital workplace initiatives are failing Karen Roby talks with a Gartner analyst about the difficulties companies face when trying to implement change through digital workplace initiatives.

Jumping from one device to another can be jarring when you're trying to call, message, or meet virtually with other people in a collaborative process. To try to ease that challenge, Cisco is enhancing its collaboration suite with new features and devices, all designed to provide the same experience across different platforms, the company announced on Wednesday.

"Workplace transformation initiatives can be chaotic—but they don't have to be," Sri Srinivasan, SVP and GM, Team Collaboration Group for Cisco, said in the announcement. According to the company, the new offerings include:

1. Single Platform Advantage and Unified Modular App. Tops on the list are Cisco's Single Platform Advantage and a unified modular app. Through the Single Platform Advantage, Cisco says it will integrate workflows of calling, messaging, meetings, devices, and contact center in a single platform. Whether you're using a mobile phone or tablet, a PC, or another device, the company says you will have a similar experience and easier transitions with these workflows across the board.

SEEThe future of Everything as a service (Special Report)

With the Single Platform Advantage, you'll be able to link to the services you currently use and tap into enhanced capabilities from the cloud. End-to-end encryption promises to protect your data in transit, at rest, and in use. Cisco says its data loss protection is designed to meet compliance and regulatory standards. And with Cisco's Webex Control Hub, you should be able to centrally manage large-scale deployments.

The modular app will unify Cisco's call, messaging, and meeting tools in one single program. As one example offered by Cisco, when you join a meeting from Webex Teams, you'll now have the same host controls that you would from Webex itself. You can then see and take part in the chat as well. Though this will be a single, modular app, your IT staff can configure it to meet each group's needs.

2. Cloud Calling. Cisco says it is enhancing Webex with some advanced features for cloud calling. The new Webex Edge for Calling platform offers a unified experience on top of your existing PBX services, whether they're from Cisco or from a third party. You'll be able to use Webex cloud services to deliver global dial plans, least-cost routing, and centralized services such as IVR and voice mail. Cisco will let you bring your own carrier to the table, providing more options for PSTN connectivity directly with the Webex Calling cloud, no local gateway required.

3. Artificial Intelligence. Cisco says its Single Platform Advantage will use an AI-powered OS so that the system will "know" who you are, let you start a meeting just by the sound of your voice, and provide information about the people with whom you're meeting. Further, Cisco says it is introducing two options to enhance your meeting spaces.

  • Desk Pro: The Desk Pro is a 27-inch, 4K touchscreen device with a USB-C connection designed for teleconferencing. It's web-app enabled so you won't need an extra screen or station. It can be set up in an individual office or in a shared workspace. And you can use it not just with Webex but with any conferencing service. AI comes into play as you can walk up to the Desk Pro, and it will greet you by name. You can blur out the background in favor of a virtual one and turn on noise suppression to stifle any annoying background sounds.
  • Room Panorama: Room Panorama is an attempt to enhance your virtual teleconferences so you feel like you're in the same room with people across the globe. Rich content collaboration and AI features will add tools like facial recognition with name and title labels, crisp actions and meeting summaries, and the ability to connect additional Webex Board screens into the room for touch experiences.

4. New Bluetooth Headset. The new Cisco Headset 700 series acts as both a work tool and a personal headset, according to the announcement. After pairing the headset to your own device, you can move around the office taking calls and conferencing into meetings. But you can also listen to music while you work. The Headset 700 offers advanced features by integrating with Cisco's collaboration app and devices.

5. Technology as a Service. In the US, Cisco says it's offering its phones and video systems as a service. When you renew your subscription, your equipment will automatically be upgraded to the latest models.

"Cisco understands that the CXO's number one concern is the employee experience," Srinivasan said in the press release. "That means that in addition to an easy-to-use app, it is critical to have consistency across all workloads, single pane of glass management, analytics and diagnostics, enterprise-grade security and compliance."

Also see

Woman doing a video call

Image: iStockphoto/Ridofranz