Collaboration Craze: 6 New Products Cisco Says Will Push The Envelope

Can You Hear (And See) Me Now?

Cisco this week held its annual Collaboration Summit in Boca Raton, Fla., where the networking giant unveiled a number of new products within its collaboration and unified communications (UC) line-up.

With a sharp focus on helping users -- and partners -- take advantage of trends like bring your own device (BYOD) and the consumerization of IT, Cisco rolled out everything from new desk phones to new applications that can merge the best of both mobile and business devices.

Here are 6 Cisco collaboration products you don't want to miss.

Cisco Expressway

In one of several mobility-focused announcements this week, Cisco launched Cisco Expressway, a next-generation gateway that lets users tap into Cisco collaboration applications like Jabber or TelePresence directly from their mobile devices, without the need for device-level registration or even an account password.

"From an end-user perspective, the real breakthrough that we are talking about with this announcement is the ability for them to join in from outside [the organization] without having to launch an additional VPN client," said Chris Wiborg, director, Collaboration Portfolio Marketing. "Today, the experience for somebody using the full Jabber solution, for example, on their cell phone would be that they have to fire up something like AnyConnect to make the connection. We've made it simpler by eliminating the need for that VPN."

Instead, Wiborg said, security is handled at the application layer via Transport Layer Security, the same technology that's widely used to secure e-commerce transactions.

Intelligent Proximity

With a new solution called Intelligent Proximity, Cisco is blurring the lines between users' mobile and business phones. Intelligent Proximity can be used to transfer all contact and call log information from users' mobile devices to their office desk phones, allowing them, Cisco said, to place personal calls from their desk phones without having to dig up the contact info first from their mobile devices.

The "proximity" piece comes into play in a couple of ways. First, users can choose to have any updates made to the contact information on their mobile phones automatically transferred to their desk phones, once they are within a certain physical proximity to that desk phone. For users who don't want to permanently plant their personal info on a desk phone, they can choose to only have the two devices synch when they are physically next to their office phone.

The first Cisco desk phone to support Intelligent Proximity will be the Android-based DX650. Moving forward, though, Cisco plans to add the capability to other end points, as well.

Jabber Guest

Cisco expanded Jabber, its presence-, voice- and video-loaded UC application, with a new feature called Jabber Guest.

Based on Expressway's security functionality, Jabber Guest lets users grant access to their own corporate communicate platforms to people outside their organization, like a client or business partner. Jabber Guest also lets users send a link to outside participants via their website, inviting those participants to join a two-way video call.

Cisco said Jabber Guest was built largely with customer service or contact center representatives in mind. A customer service agent, for instance, could use Jabber to deploy video chats with consumers directly over his or her company's website, and then ask those consumers to physically show him or her what the issue might be.

TelePresence MX300

Cisco also made several updates to its collaboration hardware, including the launch of a second-generation TelePresence MX300 endpoint it says is easier to deploy and use than its predecessor.

The new MX300 is a 55-inch, high-definition display that supports four-way multiparty calling, without the need for a separate multipoint control unit (MCU), Cisco said. It also has a dual-display option, allowing users to connect an additional screen or monitor.

According to Cisco, the MX300, available in December, is also distinguished by a "modern, sleek" design, and it can be up and running in as little as 15 minutes.

IP Phone 7800 Series

Cisco expanded its midmarket portfolio with the IP Phone 7800 Series, a lineup of three new phones Cisco says are ideal for customers currently using analog or digital phones but looking to take the leap to IP telephony.

The phones feature high-resolution displays, a choice of 2, 4 or 16 programmable line keys, and dedicated fixed keys for functions like conference calls, messaging or phone directories. The IP Phone 7800 Series also leverages Cisco EnergyWise and Power over Ethernet (PoE) Class 1 endpoints, features Cisco said allows the phones to automatically power down during off hours and reduce energy costs by as much as 60 percent.

Prime Collaboration

Lastly, Cisco updated its TelePresence management console Prime Collaboration to include new capabilities for monitoring and managing not just video but voice applications, Cisco Jabber and pretty much the entire Cisco collaboration lineup.

IT administrators, and Cisco partners, can use Prime Collaboration to do anything from deploy a server to provisioning a phone on an end-user's desk. They can also leverage the platform to get a real-time, single-pane-of-glass view into what's going on in their UC and BYOD environments.