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Cisco Intros 'Unified Communications On Steroids' With BroadSoft Integration, New Webex Tools

Cisco introduces a cloud phone system, and three new collaboration products at its Partner Summit event in Las Vegas Tuesday, and says the products demonstrate the company's drive to unite product lines into comprehensive, integrated solutions and consistent experiences.

Cisco Systems is unleashing a "unified communications on steroids" strategy as it pulls together the disparate parts of its UCaaS and collaboration portfolio into a single solution set and rolls out new products that help tie the whole thing together.

Cisco introduced a cloud phone system, and three new collaboration products at its Partner Summit event in Las Vegas Tuesday, and says the products demonstrate the company's drive to unite product lines into comprehensive, integrated solutions and consistent experiences.

The juiced-up UC offering is centered on the integration of Cisco's BroadSoft business with the rest of the company's collaboration portfolio. Cisco acquired BroadSoft early this year for about $2 billion. The company is making its BroadCloud phone system available with its Webex Teams through service providers.

The addition means Cisco can offer bundled Webex Teams, Webex Meetings and BroadSoft cloud calling in a single, unified offer that's easy to sell and easy for customers to consume and pay for in a single bill, said Aruna Ravichandran, Cisco vice president of marketing for collaboration.

The new collaboration products include a pocket-sized content sharing device that essentially turns any television into a Webex screen; a mini version of its Room Kit designed to connect teams using small "huddle spaces;" and a Webex Board 55, also designed with small meeting rooms in mind.

The lineup is aimed at the increasing use of huddle rooms among enterprise customers, according to Sri Srinivasan, senior vice president and general manager, Webex Teams, meetings and devices at Cisco. Srinivasan said there are some 25 million huddle spaces in the market now and their numbers are growing at a 20 percent annual rate. However, users say nearly half of those small, informal meeting spaces have little to no technology and nearly all those who use them say they're frustrated with them, Srinivasan said.

"We're trying to make sure it all talks to each other, and it all works together," said Amy Chang, Cisco senior vice president of the company's collaboration technology group. Chang joined Cisco in May when her company, Accompany, was acquired by Cisco for $270 million.

"In terms of an entire collaboration portfolio – the calling, messaging and meetings portion – it needs to be married together, and it needs to be clean and seamless," Chang said. "It should all work as if we're in the same room, even if we're thousands of miles apart. That's the point of collaboration technology."

Historically, Cisco hasn't done enough to make its collaboration and unified communications portfolio as complete and seamless as it will be in the coming year, Chang said.

Nathan Coutinho, director of workspace solutions at CDW said only Microsoft can compete with Cisco in the collaboration space when it comes to hardware, but these moves by Cisco make its offering more diverse and more complete.

"This is end-to-end," Coutinho said. "I always tell people when they're looking at any kind of huddle room or video conferencing solution to look at the overall architecture end-to-end, and [Cisco] has figured it out. You're getting all these enterprise features for basically any room. That's a big deal. When it all comes together it makes a lot of sense. I think we'll see a huge ramp-up."

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