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News,, Blog, April 2018

Is Cisco’s expanded range of collaboration endpoints going to be to video conferencing what the iPhone was to mobile data?

For years the adoption of mobile data remained stagnant much to the dismay of many associated vendors, service providers and start-ups. Eventually, analysts began to conclude that customers didn’t want data on the move after all, but would continue to sit down and use their laptops if they needed to do something more than send a text or make a voice call. Very few suggested that the mobile handset user experience was at fault, perhaps in fear of upsetting the powerful vendors of the time (e.g. Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola).

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But everything changed in 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone. The iPhone delivered a step change in the user experience, driven by its large touch display. And the App Store ensured that value adding applications were available to all those now confident enough to give it a go. From then on it was a virtuous circle underpinned by usability and value adding outcomes.

This has always left me wondering if a similarly unrealised vision for pervasive video conferencing is also attributable to a lack of usability and value adding outcomes. I have never been convinced that the single display VC system positioned at the end of the meeting room table and controlled by an unfamiliar remote control is able to generate sufficient value to be loved by users and precipitate widespread adoption.

But maybe everything is finally going to fall into place. Hardware pricing has fallen significantly. Large displays are now a fraction of what they were just three years ago. Dedicated VC endpoints cost little more than a PC. Collaboration applications, such as Spark, make it so much easier to share and create content in a group environment before, during and after any scheduled room meetings. And, in the background, magic boxes can translate between different technologies to enable VC systems to talk to laptop systems even when they come from competing suppliers (e.g. Cisco VC endpoints to Webex and to Skype), so we can all get into the meeting; at last!

So, to make this operationally viable in scale all that is needed is for at least one vendor to take advantage of all of these advances to offer a single portfolio of joined up solutions that can actually reach across the whole range of room requirements from small huddle space to large event or briefing space.

And that is exactly what Cisco has achieved post the launch of the new Spark endpoints, the Spark Board, Cisco Project Workplace and all the clever new stuff in the background that was acquired with Acano (e.g. CMS). It now has a range of endpoints, infrastructure and cloud services that:

  • Cover 90% of a typical corporate’s meeting space requirements (all in one options for scale, options for building more bespoke environments where appropriate, single display, dual display, triple display, touch, audio solutions, etc)
  • Allow users to “self-service” via touch panels that are genuinely straightforward to use, and can be customised for integration to e.g. building management systems
  • Bring a truly value adding collaboration platform (Spark) into scope for those meetings, including through the use of the touch enabled Spark Board
  • Allow those touch enabled Boards to also be deployed in conjunction with conventional VC units in the same room for a really genuine and natural collaboration environment (the remote VC participants can then SEE the people working on the touch screen, which is ideal)
  • Allow each of the various systems and collaboration sessions to join together and to allow systems from other vendors to also connect
  • Provide the customer with detailed room and technology utilisation data that can underpin the investment case for further deployment and support sound management of the technology estate

I sense that it’s been such a long and difficult journey that few paused to recognise the significance of what Cisco has finally delivered. I speculate that we will look back and reflect on how Cisco changed the meeting space collaboration experience.

If anyone agrees then I would also encourage them to consider how they plan to deliver this technology. As we say at AVMI, it is important, as always, for scale and efficiency to deliver standardised technology through standardised processes but when it comes to meeting spaces you have to do this in NON standardised building environments. That isn’t easy. We have built a service framework and accompanying online toolset that helps to bridge the Facilities and IT gap.

To find out more about our Global Enterprise Framework please follow the button below: 

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Also, take a look at www.avmi-cpw.com to see how Cisco’s technology can be mapped into an end to end solution for your meeting spaces.