Cisco Revamps Collaboration Line With New Video Systems, Business Edition Platform

Cisco Wednesday unveiled a series of updates to its video system and endpoint lines, along with a new version of its Business Edition collaboration platform, in a move the networking giant called the most significant refresh of its collaboration line in the past three years.

As part of the release, Cisco introduced new TelePresence MX endpoints, video software and Business Edition (BE) 7000, a scaled-out version of BE targeted at larger enterprise customers.

According to Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's Collaboration business, the new products are aimed at giving organizations of all sizes, and all budgets, access to high-quality video and collaboration technologies.

[Related: Collaboration Commitment? Cisco SMB Partners Not Feeling The Love ]

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"Our belief is that the experience is first. Anyone can build a solution that is low cost, but not anyone can build a solution that's low cost and has an incredible experience," Trollope said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week. "And that's what you are going to see today from us."

On the video side, Cisco is rolling out a second-generation version of its TelePresence MX200 endpoint for smaller-size conference rooms, along with new TelePresence MX700 and MX800 endpoints for medium- to larger-size rooms. Cisco said the revamped MX200, which starts at $17,900, is a 42-inch unit with embedded four-way multiparty conferencing. It's designed for smaller offices, with Cisco saying MX200 deployment times take an average of just eight minutes.

The TelePresence MX700 and MX800 endpoints are higher end, starting at $49,900, and are designed for larger organizations that need to connect distributed teams over video. According to Cisco, the 55-inch MX700 and 70-inch MX800 are the first endpoints in the industry to support next-generation H.265 video coding, meaning they require less bandwidth to run.

"That is really providing future bandwidth efficiency," said Snorre Kjesbu, vice president and general manager for Cisco's Collaboration Endpoint Group, during the conference call earlier this week. "You can now run full HD 1,080p/60 at half of the bandwidth that you used to be able to do."

Another new product targeted at the SMB segment is the Cisco TelePresence SX10 Quick Set, a plug-and-play system starting at $3,999 that is designed to let smaller organizations leverage the video hardware they already have in place. "It can basically turn any flat-screen TV into a collaboration system," Kjesbu said.

As for software, Cisco introduced the TelePresence SX80, a video codec the company said is ideal for integrators looking to equip large spaces with video functionality. The SX80 also supports H.265 and can be used with up to three screens. It's priced at $17,900.

Tim Savage, principal and managing director at ENS Group, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Cisco partner, said he was glad to see Cisco investing so heavily in its video line, given the rise in video adoption he expects to see in his customer base over the next few years.

"I think video is the next email," Savage told CRN. "That's where I see a lot of growth coming from, and I really do believe video will become ubiquitous in our environments."

Savage also said he was excited to start offering a new technology Cisco launched called Intelligent Proximity, which can wirelessly share slide presentations and other materials being shown on a larger video conference screen with users' mobile devices.

Cisco said the solution uses system-based device pairing to "sense" when users enter a conference room with a smartphone or tablet, and then sends those users a request to ask if they want to pair their devices with the bigger conference screen. Intelligent Proximity also can allow users to review previously shared slides on their mobile devices, Cisco said, without having to ask the presenter to go back.

"I think those are the things that really make Cisco shine," Savage said. "For us, as a partner, to be able to go out and show [Intelligent Proximity] to our clients -- the 'wow factor' goes a long way sometimes in closing a deal. And Cisco always gives us the 'wow factor.'"

NEXT: Cisco's New BE7000, Updated BE6000

Cisco also introduced Wednesday the BE7000, an integrated collaboration platform that, like the BE6000, offers voice, video, mobility, messaging, conferencing and contact center capabilities on a single box. While the BE6000 is targeted at smaller and midsize organizations with between 25 and 1,000 users, the BE7000 is targeted at larger organizations with 1,000 users and above.

The launch of the BE7000 comes roughly three months after Cisco discontinued the BE3000, another version of the platform that was targeted at the lower end of the market and, according to partners, was the perfect fit for organizations with fewer than 25 seats.

Cisco, since then, has recommended that SMB-focused partners sell the BE6000 as an alternative to the now-defunct BE3000, but some solution providers told CRN that that has been a challenge, given the longer deployment times required by the BE6000.

In an effort to combat this, Cisco Wednesday said it was offering a new "25-user starter license bundle" for the BE6000, along with a new wizards-based tool that can slash BE6000 deployment times from "days to minutes."

Still, some Cisco partners said they were disappointed that Cisco didn't unveil a new Business Edition platform specifically for organizations with fewer than 25 seats.

"Nothing has changed," said one SMB-focused Cisco partner, who asked not to be named. "They still haven't fully addressed the sub-25 market."

Cisco told CRN that partners are, in fact, "finding success" in selling the BE6000 to organizations with 25 or fewer seats. ENS Group's Savage said he's been one of them, and that he expects the new BE6000 video capabilities introduced this week -- including out-of-box functionality to connect with third-party video systems such as Microsoft Lync and Polycom -- to further fuel that success.

"I think that's where BE6000 really shines in the small arena -- video," said Savage. "If you can get somebody to appreciate the value the BE6000 brings to the table in terms of really being the only video system you can buy out of the box in the [SMB] space -- it's a great sell and it's an easy sell."

The BE7000 is selling for around $23,000, while the BE6000 starts at $9,900.

Cisco also said Wednesday it's updating its Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) to make it easier for mobile users to access the solution over the Internet without needing a VPN.

All of the new or updated products are due out in either April or May, Cisco said.