Cisco
Cisco's Rowan Trollope demonstrates to a San Francisco crowd the type of meeting hardware that often fails.

Cisco's new enterprise meeting collaboration technology comes in the form of a 70-inch, wireless touchscreen device designed to end bad meetings.

The all-in-one platform — Cisco Spark Board — comes with an interactive digital whiteboard. It also includes Cisco Meetings, which are features from its existing Cisco WebEx online meeting platform that allow users to conduct meetings without the large touchscreen.

According to Rowan Trollope, SVP and GM of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Applications Group for Cisco Systems, it obviates the need for equipment can make meetings miserable: wires all over conference tables, projectors, USB chords, conference phones, laptops that don't load the right presentations.

"We want to end the pain of meetings," Trollope told an audience at The Masonic in San Francisco yesterday.

Messages, File-Sharing

Users can screen-share, message, call, file-share and white-board with Cisco's new meeting technology. It's a part of the Cisco Spark platform, the company's central collaboration tool in its $5 billion collaboration business (PDF), which accounts for about 9 percent of the $49.2 billion company. It runs within the Cisco Spark cloud.

Despite its success with existing video-conferencing and meeting software, Cisco wanted to do better, Trollope said. 

"Nobody's been able to make a product that can actually transform all these meeting rooms," Trollope said. "It's not like people haven't tried, including Cisco. We've tried the right pricing, the right features, and no one's gotten there. That is what we set our sights on building three years ago when we started this project."

Cisco meetings
Cisco Spark Board features a 55- or 70-inch touchscreen for presentations.

Cisco Spark Board connects physical rooms to virtual spaces. It includes:

  1. A wireless presentation device. It allows for one-click sharing. It also includes technology that recognizes people as they approach. You can sync PCs, Macs, tablets or mobile phones to the screen monitor.  
  2. An interactive digital whiteboard that everyone can edit. Cisco ensures content is shareable, editable and safe through whiteboards. Remote participants can simultaneously use the whiteboard from their smartphones through the Cisco Spark app. Work is automatically saved. It includes encryption controls.

Cisco Spark Meetings

Cisco Spark Meetings, also announced today, adds some of the meeting capabilities from Cisco WebEx. It extends the meeting to include the time before and after through an integration of hardware, software apps and the cloud. 

"Simple, intelligent, automated and secure," Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told the audience today. "That's what the world needs from technology today."

Features include: 

  • Cisco Spark Meetings — Cisco Spark Board in your pocket allows users to whiteboard togeth even if no one has a Cisco Spark Board
  • Schedule a meeting in the app, create agendas, get all the right people involved, share content and chat back and forth
  • One-touch meeting starts
  • Saved brainstorming throughout the meeting
  • Post-meeting comments, follow-up action items or notes from the meeting in the same space 

Cisco is offering a 55-inch version of the Cisco Spark Board from Cisco partners at the end of this month for $4,990. The monthly subscription will cost $199 per month, including the cloud service, help desk and software upgrades. A 70-inch version of the board will be available later this year for $9,990 (also with the $199 per-month subscription).

The enterprise collaboration space has been busy. Cisco last October bought Heroik Labs' Worklife, which is designed to help enterprises prepare for and run effective meetings. For Cisco, acquiring Worklife meant improving the workplace meeting beyond the real-time capabilities (like video) of the actual meeting.

Atlassian acquired task-management provider Trello for $425 million earlier this month, and Higher Logic and Thoma Bravo made acquisitions in the space.