Cisco accelerates collaboration with ‘wave’ of Webex enhancements and plans

Reacting to the new normal ahead of all organisations and as part of a major overhaul of its conferencing and collaboration options, network technology and solutions giant unveils Webex portfolio overhaul and intent to buy audience interaction company

Faced with addressing the needs of businesses adopting the new normal of a hybrid workforce with markedly different technical and cultural demands, Cisco has announced a range of actions to provide smart and seamless collaboration in the new environment with an updated Webex slate and an intention to buy audience interaction company Slido.

Principally the company has announced an all-new Webex app for meetings, messaging and calling, and introduced three devices for workers – Webex Desk, Webex Desk Camera and Webex Desk Hub. It also unveiled a new Webex App Hub, a collaboration app ecosystem that includes prebuilt integrations with Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, ServiceNow, MIRO and Workplace for Facebook. Into this, it will fit the Slido technology, which is designed to enable higher levels of user engagement – before, during and after meetings and events.

Putting the launches into perspective, Jeetu Patel, senior vice-president and general manager for security and applications at Cisco, said the moves were part of the company’s purpose to power an “inclusive future” where collaboration technology plays a critical role in levelling the playing field so everyone is able to participate in the global economy regardless of geography, language and personality type.

“This is why we are driven to deliver a Webex experience that is 10 times better than in-person – and at the same time make in-person interactions 10 times better too,” he remarked. “Webex enables a shift towards hybrid working, opening the global economy and giving everyone a seat at the table.”

The all-new Webex is designed to provide a single secure place for connecting and getting things done: call, meet and message in one app. Cisco said the innovations fall into three areas: seamless collaboration, including meetings, messaging and calling; smart hybrid work experiences; and intelligent customer experiences.

The app will facilitate noise cancellation and speech enhancement, automatically detecting and suppressing common noises so meeting attendees can concentrate, and also transcriptions and closed captioning to remove the need for extensive notetaking. Transcripts are searchable. It also facilitates enhanced video layouts that can be changed with a simple slider control. A Webex Huddle feature allows users to quickly call specific team members into a spontaneous meeting with a single click. No scheduling is required. 

As of February 2021, the suite will offer localised, real-time transcription of an active speaker, available in 10 languages. Each meeting attendee can choose the language they want, from English, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Dutch and Japanese.

In what is said to be an industry first, sometime in 2021 the suite is slated to offer immersive sharing enabling users to share presentations, videos or applications as a dynamic background with video overlaid. This will also support in-meeting gestures, enabled by Cisco AI, that translates motion into recognisable signals.

The Webex Desk Camera is packaged with intelligent features such as facial recognition and occupancy metrics, while Webex Desk Hub is designed to turn available desk space into a personal space to support firms rethinking and reconfiguring their office space having concluded that getting back to the office may mean more hotdesking.

The new category of device supports video meetings and phone calls and also allows users to connect standard productivity and collaboration tools. The new Webex Desk allows users to engage audiences by using slides or videos as a backdrop while presenting, a feature describes as an “immersive presenter”. It is said to be able to transform experiences.

These experiences are intended to be further improved on completion of the Slido acquisition. The company’s technology is designed to enable higher levels of user engagement – before, during and after meetings and events and if all goes will be part of the Cisco Webex platform and enhance Cisco’s ability to offer new levels of inclusive audience engagement across both in-person and virtual experiences.

Slido has over seven million participants monthly and provides its customers with an inclusive audience engagement platform that enables real-time feedback and insight before, during and after any meeting or event via dynamic polls, Q&As, quizzes, word clouds and surveys, among other features.

The intent to buy comes just days after Cisco made a strategic acquisition of cloud communications software and services provider IMImobile aiming to embed omni-channel engagement into customer experience-as-a-service solutions.

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