Cisco has announced a refresh of many of collaboration tools and introduced a few new ones as well. We got a chance to hear from some top Cisco execs about the refresh before the announcement was made.
Introducing the products, Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco Collaboration Technology Group, said he sees stats like only 7% of conference rooms in the world have video capabilities and most of those have something that isn’t even being used. To that end, he said the idea with this product refresh was about combining high quality experiences with scale — making things more affordable while not compromising on the experience. In other words, Cisco wants to capture not only the missing 93% but improve the experience of the 7% that do use video conferencing.
Cisco does have an immersive experience Telepresence room for large enterprise that Trollope called a “no compromise” experience, but as you look down the stack from there he said compromises are introduced. The goal for his team was to look at how to make an immersive experience work at every level of the stack.
Snorre Kjesbu, vice president and general manager of the collaboration endpoint technology group at Cisco broke it down further, saying the refreshes focused on making the collaboration endpoints easier to use, including adding more technology innovations (such as H.264), using great design and making everything more affordable.
In the vein of of making endpoints more affordable, Kjesbu showed off the new SX10, a plug-and-play, PoE-powered camera that can turn existing boardroom displays into video-collaboration tools. The SX10 uses HDMI to connect to the display and the Ethernet port for its power and networking. We saw a demo of it being unboxed and set up, with the entire process taking less than 10 minutes. Cisco is aiming the SX10 at SMBs with existing display technology in their boardrooms, so expect it to be priced accordingly when it becomes available in the spring.
Now if you’re looking for a display to go along with that camera, Cisco’s also refreshing its MX200, which has everything already put together in a package. This second generation has an improved design over the original (rather Scandinavian looking), a 42-inch screen, and embedded 4-way multi-party video conferencing. It’s even got a wide-angle camera so it can be placed in tight spaces. And, taking a note on the ease-of-use side, it can apparently be up in running in under 8 minutes.
For those with larger boardrooms (and more money to spend) Cisco’s also refreshing its MX700/MX700 line (see the image below). This line has H.264 support and both units can be equipped with one or two cameras.
The dual camera option is actually part of a brand new product called “SpeakerTrack 60” that automatically focuses on different speakers around the room when they talk. According to Cisco, it uses a combination of audio triangulation and face detection to shift from one speaker to another. What’s interesting about SpeakerTrack is it accounts for the users around the speaker, being careful not to cut off anyone’s face.
Cisco’s immersive TelePresence units already have speaker switching technology but this new tool would let users shift spaces in a large boardroom moving closer and further away from the camera — the idea being you could theoretically move to a whiteboard in the boardroom and then back to your seat and the SpeakerTrack would follow you. The unit has 10x optical zoom so it can clearly focus around the room. It’s also notable because it could be installed on units that are significantly less expensive than full-on TelePresence rooms.
But if that’s what you’re after, to lay the foundation for those larger solutions, Cisco is also bringing out a new SX80 platform. This TelePresence box can be used to equip large rooms with up to three displays and a variety of different camera options. Cisco is saying SX80’s are for “unique” rooms, so that translates roughly to “video integrators need only apply.” As with some of the other pieces being refreshed, the SX80 has H.264 support.
On the innovation side, the team at Cisco is looking at how to take advantage of all the “glass” in a conference room. That is, using smartphones and tablets to display secondary information like slide decks and presentations instead of using the main displays — taking away from the video experience.
For example, on the low end systems, the camera and display are usually controlled by a remote, but Cisco now has an app for smartphones and tablets that can double as a remote. Once the app is installed and running, it will automatically find the devices in the room using high frequency audio. That same connection will automatically sync the extra devices with the collaboration unit and share slides and presentations.
Cisco is pegging everything announced in this refresh for a spring 2014 release.