WebRTC World Feature Article

March 18, 2014

Cisco Takes on Microsoft with Google Partnership, Brings WebEx to Chromebooks

Enterprise Connect kicked off in Orlando, Fla. this week and there have been a lot of great conversations about the growth of collaboration technologies, real-time video interactions and how the cloud will continue to shape the transformation of business communications. Cisco’s Rowan Trollope, senior VP and GM, collaboration technology group, gave a keynote Tuesday morning, demonstrating the company’s  newest products to support its mission of bringing quality video and audio experience to everyone, from the browser to the boardroom.

Trollope realized on day one at Cisco that he had a duty to bring quality video and audio experiences to everyone. “This stuff changes your life,” he said, and when you use it, you can never go back. At Enterprise Connect last year, he was impressed by all the people talking about the future of collaboration and how to integrate cloud, mobile, social analytics and big data, but then faced reality, and it’s not so pretty. Most organizations are not implementing the technology seen from these thought leaders. Only about 7 percent of meeting rooms have video or telepresence capabilities, leaving the only option to connect via audio.

He explained that the tools available today are slowing people down. They’re saying they’re frustrated with their tools, and they want to get their job done, but the tools are getting in the way. While the way we work has changed, the tools haven’t caught up.

That leads us to the trend of workers taking matters into their own hands. They’re using consumer technology to get their job done. Companies in the industry today take a “tech-first” approach and add in the user experience on the side, Trollope said. Cisco is doing it the other way around.

He shows a pyramid of how this focus falls into development: While experience is on top, in order to deliver that you need to focus on software. If you want to deliver great software, you also need to focus on hardware. Focusing on hardware means you have to also think about infrastructure, and then the network that infrastructure will run on.

“To deliver a great experience you have to care all up and down,” Trollope said.

To that point, he explained how Cisco is planning on delivering a great user experience and solutions from the browser to the boardroom. He introduced the SX10, or what he likes to call “DIY telepresence,” which is a $1500 device that makes it easy to enable telepresence in any room. The device connects via a mobile application, using “Promixity” technology to connect to a full HD video call.

From there, he showed the audience how Cisco is bringing collaboration to the boardroom. The MX700 is one step below its immersive experience, using the Proximity capabilities app again to enable virtual meeting room experiences. He emphasized the design on the MX700, explaining that the goal is to make it something people want to use – not something that would traditionally make people want to call IT immediately. The device adjusts frames automatically and uses face detection and sources audio signal built into the hardware and software to frame the shot, so it’s always showing an accurate display of who is talking.

These devices use H.265, giving HD quality but with half the bandwidth.

After Trollope demonstrated its newest devices, it focused on the browser part of the “browser to boardroom” approach. He brought out Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Chrome for business and education at Google, to announce a partnership between Cisco and Google to bring WebEx to Chromebooks.

More than five million companies use Google apps, and Chromebooks is one of the fastest-growing platforms – it grew 10x last year and currently holds 21 percent of the U.S. commercial laptop market.

“People want to get the full Cisco experience from their browser,” Trollope said. And they’d love to get it on their Chromebook. WebEx is completely redesigned to work native on the browser on Chromebook without any downloads. All telepresence meetings become WebEx meetings and vice versa, he said.

“Imagine, for instance, being able to join a WebEx meeting straight from a Google Calendar, or starting an instant meeting from the Google Contact Card and the Google People widget. Being able to connect with others inside and outside the organization by clicking on phone numbers or extensions displayed in Gmail or Google Apps. Rajen and I want that; we bet many of you do too,” Trollope wrote in a blog post about the partnership.

Trollope said Cisco loves WebRTC, and this partnership definitely takes a step in the right direction for browser-based real-time communications. There are still a few questions left to answer and explore, but overall the crowd seems very excited about WebEx being brought and redesigned for the browser and Chromebooks.

“We’re on a mission to bring incredible experiences with no compromise at the best possible price,” Trollope said. He explains how there will be tremendous growth in the collaboration industry over the next 10 years, and encourages the industry to work together to help deliver those great user experiences. 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker


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