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Cisco Drives Webex Innovation Train Forward
At the digital version of its annual Partner Summit last week, Cisco announced a veritable cornucopia of new features and enhancements to its Webex product, the most significant of which is Webex Legislate and Cisco Connected Justice. The former, Legislate, is a version of Webex specifically designed for legislatures where governments can use it to mimic how people might meet on a chamber floor. The latter, Connected Justice, can be used by courts, correction departments, and others to conduct their operations.
When tools like Webex are used in certain verticals, their effectiveness is limited, as people need to use other tools and move information between them. Cisco has solved this with these two products because they are built with workflows in mind.
This concept can be useful in other verticals as well. For example, in schools, students sometimes “pin” their friends instead of the teacher. It would be ideal that there is a version of Webex where someone can be designated the teacher and then auto-pinned. In healthcare, there are specific workflows built around patient treatment, and Webex could address this with a version designed for that industry.
The use cases are almost endless. Scaling the product can be a problem, however. Even with Cisco’s resources, it can’t possibly build a Webex application for every vertical’s unique workflows, which can often vary by country. That is where Cisco’s DevNet program has a significant impact on the future success of Webex. It enables vertical software vendors to use Webex as a platform and build industry solutions with “Webex inside.” Webex Legislate and Cisco Connected Justice are great examples of what’s possible, but this should only be the starting point.
Additional announcements further Cisco’s mission of making virtual meetings 10x better than an in-person meeting. During Partner Summit, Jeetu Patel, Cisco SVP of security, and applications reiterated this mission to the partner community and enforced that this is now the driving force behind Webex innovation. In a previous call, Javed Khan, GM of Collaboration, admitted Cisco didn’t have as many “whiz-bang” features as some of the competition, and the company is adding them. But the bigger focus has been to have ease of use take a step function leaps in innovation.
Key new features added to Webex include:
- Background noise removal (Babble Labs) is now available for Windows and Mac. This feature is critical for individuals WFH. Patel demonstrated this by turning on a vacuum while he was on the call, and it worked flawlessly.
- Dark mode is now available in Webex. This feature might seem minor, but people that do a lot of video meetings (ahem, all of us analysts) will find dark mode reduces eye strain.
- Automated in-meeting mute warning helps people avoid the situation where you go on and on talking only to find out you were on mute. Everyone has done this, but now Webex will tell you [suggestion: that you’re talking too much] on the screen.
- Microsoft Outlook Bot alerts users of email from the Webex Teams client and helps reduce the amount of flipping between apps that we do today.
- Confluence Cloud Bot is similar to the Outlook Bot and makes it easy to stay on top of documented processes, release plans, or other project-related requirements.
- Call queue availability enables workers that are members of a call queue to set the status to receive calls and improve calls routing.
- Mute controls have been expanded, giving hosts and co-hosts more control. New features include mute and unmute all or mute on entry. It even controls if users can unmute or mute themselves. This feature can be ideal for large meetings, school settings, etc.
- Expanded VDI support is important in financial services and a few other industries. Historically, companies that used VDI only cared about voice, but now are looking for full-featured collaboration. Cisco supports 720p video and eliminates the “hair pinning” of content where the content is sent back and forth to the VDI endpoint, making it more network friendly. Cisco supports a wide range of VDI endpoints that include Citrix, VMware, and Windows thin clients.
- Team space classification enables administrators to label Team spaces based on governance policies, which can be designated public, confidential, highly confidential, or secret. This feature helps regulate who can see the content but also reminds users that the data they are dealing with is sensitive.
- Webex Edge Connect options expand how customers connect into the Webex cloud. Currently, customers can direct peer into Equinix but can now directly connect to Webex using an SD-WAN. That removes many of the vagaries of the Internet and improves quality and reliability. Both of which are important for video.
Since the pandemic began, Cisco has been busy at work rolling out feature after feature for Webex. These new things may seem like a lot, but I suspect the Partner Summit news is only the tip of the iceberg. In December, Cisco is holding its digital Webex One event, and I’m expecting the announcements there to dwarf what we got this week.
More to come, I’m sure.