Cisco Webex adds new products and features to its Webex suite during Cisco Live!

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For the first time in three years, Cisco Live!, Cisco’s annual technology show, was held in person and virtually, and, although I did not attend in person, senior analysts Matt Kimball and Will Townsend were at the live show in Las Vegas. You can read my coverage of Cisco’s keynote here where I talk about how Cisco is unifying its cloud experience. I now want to turn my attention to Cisco’s Webex announcements, which strive to develop the best hybrid work collaboration experience on the market.

Before moving on to what Cisco has announced, I want to touch on some of the challenges that hybrid working brings to the table. I want to reiterate what I said in a previous blog about hybrid video conferencing solutions:

One of the challenges of a hybrid work environment is producing a consistent, quality conferencing experience across many different room sizes and configurations. There is no one-size-fits-all collaboration solution, as each room is different in size and has different acoustics. Whether in your home office or in the office, every conference space needs custom audio and video solutions designed specifically for it.

Not only must there be a quality and consistent video call experience in the conference room, but also on the remote side. A consistent and quality means of collaboration and communication must be in place for hybrid working to be effective and beneficial in place of our old means of communication and collaboration. Cisco is addressing these challenges with new hardware and software that focus on building intelligence and consistency into its Webex solutions.

The Cisco Phone and the New Webex Video Bar

The Cisco Video Phone 8875 is the classic phone that’s been updated and designed for hybrid work. Interestingly, while the classic phone seems like a dated device, its concept is still alive and well in video calling innovation. What Cisco did was take the classic phone, the one that goes to your face, and redesign it to be what it calls a “mini-conference room” with a video camera and a screen for see all meeting participants. I believe it presents a business-as-usual persona by acknowledging that the collaborative world we live in is very hybrid. The videophone is equipped with Cisco’s new smart and one-button features. For example, users can synchronize their calendars. I think it caters more to the experienced generation, whereas something like the Webex Desk Hub is more smartphone centric. Like Webex Desk Hub, it includes calendar integration. It’s also powered by Webex audio intelligence, suppressing background noise and enhancing the user’s voice.

Cisco announced a new Webex Room Bar intended to reduce video fatigue and increase attendance. One of the goals of video calling solutions is to make the collaboration experience more inclusive and unbiased, regardless of the work environment. In work environments like conference rooms where teammates are present together, it is more difficult for those on a video call to collaborate. Traditionally with video calls, the conference workspace is a full video call, making it an uneven playing field for those on the call to see and interact. Cisco has included different modes in Webex that allow conference rooms to be divided by person in Frames view, by speakers in Speaker view, or manually with the traditional group view option.

The Webex Room Bar has a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens camera capable of shooting 4K. While 4K isn’t an optimal resolution for video calls right now, it’s useful in the Pictures view, giving everyone a crisp, digitally magnified image. It’s also a USB bar, making it easy to connect to laptops or mini PCs as a plug-and-play device. It has an additional microphone input and a noise-canceling microphone array. The Webex Room Bar explains how boring and uninviting meetings have become.

Improves PSTN and mobile experiences

Webex has also enhanced its Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by extending its AI-powered audio intelligence technology to include non-Webex calling users such as customers, partners, and vendors. PSTN can often be overlooked and by including enhanced AI technology in PSTN calls, I believe Cisco is consistent across all of its Webex offerings. Webex also improves PSTN survivability so that on-premises Webex PSTN calls aren’t dropped in the event of a network or service outage. I think this gives Webex an advantage in situations where reliability is the core value behind a call, such as highly volatile work environments.

Webex makes it easy for users to transition from a Webex meeting to mobile devices, as well as integrate Webex into CarPlay. This new feature for Webex addresses more of the traditional side of hybrid working. Transitioning from desktop to remote work can take time, and switching from Webex meetings to mobile can save some of that time and even put it to good use, depending on your productivity and dedication. As for Webex Meetings to CarPlay, I don’t think Meetings for the Car is ready, from a security perspective. I think this should be a step in the right direction rather than a complete solution for the car.

Partnerships

Webex integrates Eloqua and Salesforce into webinars allowing marketers to integrate webinars into marketing automation and CRM platforms. Oracle Eloqua is Oracle’s marketing automation solution. Webinars have become an essential part of marketing. By automating the process of integrating webinar data into a campaign, marketing teams can spend less time performing manual tasks and more time dealing with important questions.

Integrating Webex into Salesforce also keeps marketing and sales teams on the same page about customer activity. Webex integration allows marketing teams to respond to leads faster and share better with sales. It also reconciles webinar data with sales and marketing teams and tracks revenue for specific webinar programs. Webex integration in Eloqua and Salesforce should be convenient for marketing and sales teams.

Wrap

Like many video calling solutions, Webex seeks to address the hybrid work environments we all live in and does so with smart, reliable features. The Cisco Video Phone is an update to a familiar face that I think improves the hotdesking experience. The Video Bar should also offer a more exclusive experience with its new Frame and Speaker display modes.

Cisco has also improved its mobile experience by making PSTN a better and more reliable experience. Cisco is also addressing hybrid working transition times by making it easier to transition between a Webex meeting and a mobile device. I also think Cisco takes video calls with a vehicle in the right direction with built-in CarPlay capabilities.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.

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