If you've worked in an office in the past 15 years, odds are you've used Cisco's desk phones, attended WebEx conference calls or watched colleagues over Cisco's TelePresence video service. Maybe you've also used Lync, Skype, Hangouts or some of the many others services to collaborate with others.
Now, Cisco claims you can choose all of the above thanks to a significant shift in the San Jose, Calif.-company's collaboration suite strategy. At its Cisco Live conference, the company introduced options to simplify its systems while cutting costs.
"We want to bring amazing collaboration capabilities to every room, every desk and every pocket," said Peter Ulander, vice president for marketing. He said the company did a good job of helping people connect through voice, video or data conferences, but all through three services that operated as separate businesses within Cisco.
"One thing we realized is that, going beyond the Cisco walls, when you look at all the different tools that we use to collaborate, it has actually confused the market," he said in an interview with CMSWire. "There's no consistency across the tools. We're learning multiple interfaces. And at the end of the day you may not even know what the other people happen to be using, so your meetings start late, etc."
The company now plans to offer video with the quality of TelePresence, conference service like WebEx and new hardware that brings full collaboration on everything from a tablet's browser to an oversized board room display. Ulander said these changes are the second step in a four-stage series of changes expected this year, but declined to give any hints about what is coming next.
For now, there are new phones, with Cisco's 8800 series serving as the latest iteration off the nearly ubiquitous desk phones. But there is also a new touchscreen display that can serve as phone or self-contained conference center that can tie into WebEx, Lync or whatever system is required to collaborate with distance workers.
These new DX series monitors include a high-def camera and a unique sound system that Ulander said can pick up the voice of the person at the desk, but not disturb the person in the next cube. Ulander said it creates a virtual "cone of silence" for the worker using the system.
More than a Monitor
The monitors work with any computer or can be connected directly to Salesforce or other systems. They run on the Android operating system, which also means the monitors can run some apps.
A 23-inch, touchscreen DX monitor lists at $3,000, but Ulander said he expects a "street price" in the range of $1,500 to $2,000. That's a lot for a monitor alone, but Ulander noted it includes a phone, camera, speakers and other equipment normally found on an office desk. And it means the desktop is less cluttered by other devices. There is also a 14-inch model.
Cisco has also simplified its management console to a single system, eliminating the need for multiple boxes and screens. That also brings down its price, Ulander said.