Cisco Takes Collaboration to Next Level

The company's partners got insight into a lot of new technology at Cisco Partner Summit.

Lynn Haber

November 7, 2019

5 Min Read

CISCO PARTNER SUMMIT — Last year, Cisco worked to get its collaboration strategy back on track and did, with new team leadership and new integrations and products. Since then, Cisco’s collaboration team has charged full speed ahead and today announced five major innovations to its collaboration portfolio.

And if there are any doubts about the company’s commitment to collaboration, the vendor quelled that with the recent acquisition of Voicea, the AI-powered voice collaboration vendor. At the time, Cisco said that the Voicea technology would enhance its Webex portfolio with a transcription service that blends AI and automated speech recognition (ASR). The deal, which closed in September, aligns with Cisco’s vision of cognitive collaboration, interoperability and workplace transformation.


Cisco’s Amy Chang

“This is going to be a big year for all of us. This is the year that we together can make the magic happen,” Amy Chang, executive vice president, general manager, Cisco Collaboration, told attendees during a session on Wednesday. “The foundation is ready with unified platform across calling, messaging and meetings; distinctive hardware that’s ready to sell via Flex as hardware as a service; and there’s never been a better time to sell that stickiest of all software, contact center. Given the strength of your relationships with customers, there has never been a better time to provide them with a unified solution made distinctive by your customizations.”

For partners, that means more growth and more revenue across products and services.

The five enhancements announced today include: a single platform for all workloads and a unified modular app; cloud calling enhancements; two new devices that bring AI and whiteboarding to small and large spaces; a new Bluetooth headset; and an as-a-service offering for phones, desk and room-sized video systems.

Single Platform Advantage is about Cisco delivering all workloads (calling, messaging, meeting, devices and contact center) in an integrated fashion from a single platform, offering users consistency and IT better admin control and security from a single pane of glass.

The Single Platform Advantage includes: edge and hybrid service; cognitive collaboration; enterprise-class security and compliance; and analytics and central management via Cisco Webex Control Hub.

There’s also a new unified modular application that includes several new ways Cisco has unified its call, message and meeting tools. For instance, when you join a meeting from Webex Teams, you’ll now have the same host controls as you’d have from Webex itself. And you’ll also be able to see and take part in the chat. Cisco also unified the way you see presence — whether your co-workers are busy or free.

The new tools are offered in a modular manner in one application, but can be configured it to align to each group’s needs or workstyles.

“In the past we had discrete Webex calling, meetings, messaging and there was little overlap. They were siloed products,” Sri Srinivasan, senior vice president, general manager Webex Meeting, teams, calling and devices at Cisco, told attendees. “Not anymore. Now we’ve integrated all of these beautiful capabilities and technologies to one unified platform and one app for all 300 million Webex customers.”

And for the 100 million Webex meeting users, 50 million Jabber users and 23 million Broadsoft users, all leverage the same Cisco collaboration platform. Cisco’s Unified Webex client also integrates fully with Microsoft, Google, Apple and other SaaS applications users live in every day, Srinivasan said.

The new unified application can be white-labeled by partners, and they can use the APIs and Cisco Collaboration can be embedded into the customer’s business processes.

Partners also learned that Microsoft Teams Rooms soon will …

… natively integrate with Cisco Webex Meeting. So no more Cisco or Microsoft but Cisco and Microsoft.

“Now, partners can walk into a Microsoft shop, head held high, and sell Cisco Collaboration along side Microsoft,” said Srinivasan.

Cloud calling enhancements: The new Cisco Webex Edge for Calling solutions deliver a modern unified experience on top of existing PBX (Cisco and third party) investments. IT can unify disparate environments and take advantage of Webex cloud services to deliver global dial plans, least-cost routing and centralized services including IVR, voice mail and more — organization-wide. Users get consistent calling features, such as extension dialing, on-net calls, and the Webex app for calling, meeting and messaging.

There are more options for PSTN connectivity directly to the Webex Calling cloud, with no local gateway required. There’s also a new Cisco Unified Communication Manager Cloud, which is managed in the Webex cloud with all of the UCM features.

Focusing on devices, Cisco announced Desk Pro and Room Panorama. Desk Pro features a 27-inch, 4K touchscreen device with a USB-C connection. It is web-app-enabled and works with Webex as well as with any conferencing service. The Desk Pro recognizes your voice, can blur out the background or offer a virtual one, and has noise suppression. With Room Panorama, teams feel like they are sitting in the same space together, Cisco said. The new device features rich content collaboration, integrations and AI features to make meetings meaningful and actionable. There also are tools for facial recognition with name and title labels, crisp actions and meeting summary, and the ability to connect additional Webex Board screens into the room for touch experiences.

Cisco also announced the Cisco Headset 700 series Bluetooth headset.

In the U.S., Cisco will offer phones, desk- and room-sized video systems as a service; and, when customers renew their three-year subscriptions, Cisco will refresh the devices with the latest technology.

Chang also gave partners a heads-up for what’s in store for collaboration and talked about Voicea, an advanced speech recognition engine that takes AI and ML and pulls it into the Webex platform for real-time transcription and translation.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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