For the first time in three years, Cisco Live!, Cisco’s annual tech show, was held in person and virtually, and, although I did not attend in person, principal 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 toward Cisco’s Webex announcements as it strives to develop the best hybrid work collaboration experience on the market.
Before I jump into what Cisco announced, I want to lead with some of the challenges that hybrid work brings to the table. I want to reiterate what I have said in a previous blog on hybrid video conferencing solutions:
One of the challenges of a hybrid work environment is producing a quality and consistent conferencing experience across many different room sizes and settings. There isn’t a one size fits all collaboration solution as each room is a different size and has different acoustics. Whether in your home office or the business office, each conferencing space needs custom audio and video solutions specifically designed for it.
Not only does there need to be quality and consistent video call experience in the conference room, but also from the remote side as well. There needs to be a consistent, quality collaboration and communication medium in place for hybrid work to be efficient and advantageous in place of our legacy medium of communication and collaboration. Cisco is addressing these challenges with new hardware and software that focus in integrating intelligence and consistency into its Webex solutions.
The Cisco Phone and new Webex Video bar
The Cisco Video Phone 8875 is the classic phone that has been updated and designed for hybrid work. Interestingly, while the classic phone seems like a dated device, its concept is still alive and well within the innovation of video calls. What Cisco has done is taken the classic phone, the one that goes to your face, and redesigned it to be what it calls a “mini-conference room” with a video camera and a screen for seeing all of the meeting participants. I believe it presents a business-as-usual persona in recognizing that the collaborative world we live in is very much a hybrid. The Video phone is retrofitted with Cisco’s new one-button push and intelligent features. For example, users can sync their calendars. I believe it answers more to the experienced generation, whereas something like the Webex Desk Hub is more centered around the smartphone. Like the Webex Desk Hub, it includes calendar integration. It also is powered by Webex audio intelligence, removing background noise and enhancing the user’s voice.
Cisco announced a new Webex Room Bar intending to reduce video fatigue and increase participation. One of the goals for video call solutions is to make the collaboration experience more inclusive and unbiased no matter the work environment. In work environments like conference rooms where teammates are present together, it is more difficult for those in a video call to collaborate. Traditionally with video calls, the conference workspace is one complete video call, making it an uneven playing field for those on the call to see and interact. Cisco has included different modes within Webex that allow for conference rooms to be split up by person in Frames View, by speakers in Speaker View, or manually with the option of the traditional Group view.
The Webex Room Bar has a 12MP wide-angle lens camera capable of shooting in 4K. Although 4K is not an optimal resolution for video calls now, it is useful in Frames view, giving each person a crisp digitally zoomed image. It is also a USB Bar, making it easy to connect to laptops or mini PCs as a plug-and-play device. It has an extra microphone input and noise-canceling microphone array. The Webex Room Bar addresses how boring and unengaging meetings have become.
Improves PSTN and mobile experiences
Webex has also improved its Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) by extending its AI-powered audio intelligence technology to include non-Webex calling users such as customers, partners, and suppliers. PSTN can often be overlooked and by including enhanced AI technology in PSTN calling, I believe Cisco is being consistent throughout its Webex offerings. Webex is also improving PSTN survivability to where on-site PSTN Webex calls are not dropped when there is a network or service outage. I believe this gives Webex an advantage in situations where reliability is the core value behind a call like highly volatile work environments.
Webex is making it easier for users to transition from a Webex meeting to mobile devices as well as integrating Webex into CarPlay. This new feature for Webex addresses more of the traditional side of hybrid work. Transitioning between the office to remote work can take time, and shifting from Webex meetings to mobile can save some of that time and even put it to good use, depending on how productive and dedicated you are. As for Webex Meetings to CarPlay, I don’t believe meetings for the car is ready, coming from a safety standpoint. I believe this should be a step in the right direction than a complete solution for the car.
Webex is integrating 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 a critical component of marketing. By automating the process of putting webinar data into a campaign, marketing teams are able to spend less time doing manual work and more time addressing important matters.
Webex integration into Salesforce similarly allows marketing and sales teams to be on the same page regarding customer activity. Webex integration allows marketing teams to respond to leads faster and share with sales better. It also puts webinar data closer to the sales and marketing teams and allows revenue to be tracked to specific webinar programs. Webex integration into Eloqua and Salesforce should be convenient for marketing and sales teams.
Like many video call solutions, Webex is looking to address the hybrid work environments we all live in and is doing so with intelligent and reliable features. The Cisco Video Phone is an update to a familiar face that I believe improves the hotdesking experience. The Video bar should also make for a more exclusive experience with its new Frame and Speaker view modes.
Cisco has also improved its mobile experience making PSTN a better quality and more reliable experience. Cisco is also addressing the transitional periods of hybrid work by making it easier to transition between a Webex meeting and a mobile device. I also believe Cisco is taking video calls with a vehicle in the right direction with integrated CarPlay features.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.