Cisco Continues Collaboration Blitz With New All-In-One Desktop Devices, Hosted Meeting Service

On the heels of what it called the most significant update to its collaboration line in years, Cisco is at it again, this time unveiling a number of new hardware and hosted offerings the networking giant said will deliver high-end collaboration features to companies big and small.

Cisco unveiled the products, which include two desktop endpoints and a cloud-based meeting room service, at Cisco Live 2014, taking place this week in San Francisco.

The launch comes just two months after Cisco made sweeping updates to its collaboration portfolio at the Enterprise Connect 2014 event in Orlando, Fla., which, again, were targeted at bringing video and other high-end collaboration features downstream.

[Related: Smart Billboards, Connected Bus Stops And Other Must-See Items At Cisco Live 2014 ]

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"Last quarter we set about introducing a new set of products that would bring incredible collaboration experiences into every conference room," said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's collaboration business, speaking at Cisco Live Monday. "And the response to those products has been amazing."

The new endpoints unveiled Monday, the DX80 and DX70, are being positioned by Cisco as all-in-one desktop collaboration devices. Resembling a tablet, both serve as a monitor, a phone and a videoconferencing unit in single package. The idea, Cisco said, is that DX80 and DX70 eliminate the desktop clutter caused by workers having to separately use a phone, monitor, webcam, headset and other gadgets to communicate.

Trollope compared the DX80 and DX70 to a smartphone; just as the iPhone consolidated multiple devices, including a phone, an MP3 player and a PalmPilot into one, the DX80 and DX70, he said, do the same for the workplace desk.

"We were inspired by the power of [the smartphone] to really simplify things," Trollope said.

Both the 23-inch DX80 and 14-inch DX70 are touch-enabled and run Google's Android operating system. In addition to the apps available via Google Play, the devices come with Cisco WebEx, Cisco Jabber, Cisco Communications Manager and Cisco phone features such as call transfer, voicemail, etc. built in. Users place and receive calls via a touch-screen interface, just as they would on an iPad.

Cisco said organizations or third-party software developers can create whiteboarding, CRM and others apps to run on the devices, as well. Trollope said the DX80 and DX70 will sell for less than $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, when they launch in June.

Cisco also unveiled Monday a cloud-based meeting room service called Collaboration Meeting Rooms. Set to go head-to-head with hosted meeting room services from startups such as Blue Jeans Network and Vidyo, CMR lets users launch videoconferences across a range of device endpoints, be it a tablet, smartphone or desktop, and across any SIP-enabled, non-Cisco video endpoint, such as those from Polycom or Microsoft.

The service is an extension of Cisco's cloud-based WebEx conferencing service, so users need to be a WebEx customer to access CMR. That means, however, they can tap into traditional WebEx features such as chat, annotation, content sharing and recording, in addition to videoconferencing.

CMR users get a dedicated URL that they share with participants when they want to invite them to a meeting. These URLs launch meeting spaces that are "always on," Trollope said, so there's no need to schedule conferences in advance.

Customers pay for CMR, which launches in September, as a monthly SaaS subscription.

Robert Bellmar, executive vice president of conferencing and collaboration at InterCall, a Chicago-based Cisco partner and subsidiary of telecommunications service provider giant West Corporation, said CMR stands out from other Cisco collaboration technologies in that it lets organizations and their end users leverage the assets they already have in place.

"With CMR you can open up [video consumption] to any browser and any PC, and that’s what our customers need and what CIOs are looking for," Bellmar said. "It leverages assets and enables your workers so you don’t lose them to a kind of bring-your-own-application [environment]."

Cisco is hosting CMR on its own infrastructure, but said partners, in some cases, could host CMR, as well. Solution providers will also have the option of reselling CMR for a monthly recurring revenue.

"There are lots of great options for partners, depending on their level of investment and how quickly they want to get to market," Richard McLeod, head of Worldwide Collaboration Channel Sales at Cisco, told CRN.

Meanwhile, Cisco also introduced its IP Phone 8800 Series, which includes the company's new Intelligent Proximity technology, allowing users to import contacts and call history or transition audio or video calls from their mobile devices to their 8800 Series desk phone.