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Cisco Enhances Webex Teams as Unified App

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Cisco's new Room Panorama

Cisco's new Room Panorama

In a “coming together of the puzzle” pieces, Cisco today announced a series of updates aimed at solidifying its single platform approach to delivering experience consistency for all types of enterprise communications workloads running on any device type.
 
The updates, announced at Cisco Partner Summit, reflect Cisco’s efforts to tailor its user experience design around an uninterrupted virtual workspace – Webex Teams – that brings together modern-day business processes and collaboration, Sri Srinivasan, SVP and GM of Cisco’s Team Collaboration Group, told No Jitter. In addition, the updates reiterate Cisco’s focus on a “human-centered cognitive approach, which is to inject more and more intelligence in the right place without having to have an induction cause,” he added. “It has to be discernible and relatable every step of the way.”
 
IT, too, will be the beneficiary of having a single platform for enterprise communications – internal and external-facing. Besides weaving intelligence into interactions, Webex Teams as a platform supports:
  • Edge and hybrid services, allowing enterprises to maintain existing connections enhanced with cloud capabilities
  • Enterprise-class security and compliance, including end-to-end encryption and data loss protection for compliance and regulatory needs
  • Analytics and management, via Webex Control Hub, for centralized management and real-time visibility on performance, as well as diagnostics, for improved understanding on room use and, in the contact center, agent call volume and customer journeys, for example
One of the chief manifestations of having this single platform is the ability to deliver Webex Teams as a unified, yet modular, app for calling, messaging, and meeting, Srinivasan said. This means being able to provide consistency of host controls for meetings, chat, and presence in Webex Teams as in Webex itself, for example, Cisco said in its press release on the updates.
 
The modularity comes in for IT, making Webex Teams configurable by group. Provide warehouse workers Webex Teams for messaging and calling but disallow meetings, a piece of the app that’s not essential to their day-to-day jobs, Cisco provided as an example.
 
Calling on a Unified Capability
Calling, a critical means of communicating for global businesses, takes center stage in Webex Teams, said Srinivasan, noting that Cisco supports a calling interface – i.e., softphone – on top of any deployment type, on-premises or cloud-based. That could be Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager (UCM), hosted UCM, a partner’s Hosted Collaboration Solution, Webex Calling, or any third-party PBX, he said.
 
Regarding the latter, Cisco introduced Webex Edge for Calling solutions that enable enterprises to layer Webex cloud services on top of existing PBXes, be they from Cisco or any other vendor, Srinivasan said. With Webex Edge for Calling, IT will be able to bring together disparate calling environments, relying on Webex cloud services to deliver global dial plans; least-cost routing; and centralized IVR, voicemail, and other such services across the business. Users get consistent calling features, as well as the meeting and messaging functionality that comes along with Webex Teams.
 
Additional calling enhancements include more options for direct PSTN connectivity to the Webex Calling cloud, in support of the bring-your-own-carrier model, and a new Cisco UCM Cloud offering, managed in the Webex cloud as a dedicated private instance.
 
Device Dynamics
Tapping into its AI-infused device operating system – part and parcel of the single platform – Cisco introduced one intelligent meeting device for the desktop and another for the boardroom.
 
For the desktop, Cisco has created a web-enabled 27-inch, 4K touchscreen device with a USB-C connection, as shown below. This device, called Desk Pro, works with Webex – of course – but also any other conferencing service, Srinivasan said. The AI comes in with capabilities such as facial recognition, background blur, and background noise suppression.
 

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Cisco's new Desk Pro video collaboration device

Cisco's new Desk Pro video collaboration device

 
For the boardroom using Webex Board, Cisco has expanded its portfolio with a next-generation immersive offering called Room Panorama. The goal of Room Panorama is to make global teams feel as if they’re sitting in the same space by cutting the room in half visually (see image above). Room Panorama includes intelligence features such as facial recognition with name and title labels, as well as action items and meet summaries, and the ability to connect additional Webex Board screens into the room for touch experiences.
 
Additionally, Cisco has announced a new Bluetooth headset that allows pairing to a user’s own device or any other Cisco device and allows mobility around the office. The new headset, called the Cisco Headset 700 series, is aimed at both the business user and contact center agent, and is integrated with Webex Teams and devices, Srivinasan said. “Today they can detect and suppress background noise. Tomorrow perhaps they will be able to remind you that you have a meeting starting in five minutes,” Cisco related in its press release.
 
The 700 series is manageable via the Webex Control Hub and sits under Cisco’s threat protection umbrella.
 
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In the last bit of news coming out of Partner Summit, Cisco introduced a subscription service for its Webex phones and desktop and room video systems. This device-as-a-service offering is available in the U.S. and requires a minimum commitment of three years, Srinivasan said. A full warranty applies to the gear during that period, and subscriptions can auto-update for a device refresh.