The News: Yesterday, during the first keynote session of WebexOne 2021, Cisco expanded its Webex ecosystem by rolling out new devices and features. New devices include Webex Desk Mini and Webex Whiteboard Pro. New features include audio intelligence, collaboration insights, and simultaneous translations. These new innovations will enable seamless collaboration for the hybrid work era of the future. Read the full press release here.
Cisco Expands Webex Ecosystem with New Devices and Features at WebexOne
Analyst Take: We are in a new era of hybrid work where some people are in the office, some are working remotely, and some are doing both. No matter where people choose to work, they need to be able to collaborate seamlessly with colleagues and that is what Cisco had in mind with the host of new innovations they announced yesterday during the first keynote presentation at WebexOne 2021. From upgrades that focus on inclusivity and employee wellbeing to innovations that enable working from anywhere, all with security in mind, Cisco is ready to revolutionize how we collaborate and drive an inclusive work experience.
Inclusivity and Employee Well Being Take Center Stage
Recently Cisco released its Hybrid Work Index that explored trends across collaboration, security, networking and culture. It’s clear that the insights they garnered from this study drove their decision-making with the new innovations. Starting with inclusivity. Two stats played a huge role in the keynote yesterday. First, 98 percent of meetings will have at least one participant who is not in the room. And second, only 48 percent of meeting participants speak in meetings on average. These are some of the features and innovations that were announced yesterday that will make meetings more inclusive and drive better collaboration.
- Optimize for all voices. New AI-powered audio features will eliminate unwanted background noise and equalize voices to ensure everyone can be heard regardless of how far they are sitting from the speaker device.
- Enhanced camera intelligence. People Focus camera capabilities will optimize the view of in-room attendees for those who are dialing in. Remote participants will be able to better identify facial gestures and body language making it seem like they are actually in the room.
- Collaboration insights to beat stress and burnout. With hybrid work comes new problems like lack of team engagement, more stress, and more burnout. Cisco’s Collaboration Insights will allow teams to see work time patterns, sentiment ratings, and focus time goals. Managers will be able to identify troubling patterns and proactively address problems before they become detrimental to an employees’ well-being.
- Minimize meetings. We’ve all thought “this meeting could’ve been an email” and Cisco agrees. With Vidcast, employees can send video messages to other colleagues and watch, comment, and react at their own pace — eliminating all of those unwanted meetings.
Devices to Drive Creativity and Collaboration
The upgrades to Webex weren’t the only things on display yesterday. Cisco rolled out a few devices that will drive collaboration whether an employee is working at the kitchen table or in a conference room.
- Webex Desk Mini. The 24-inch Webex Desk and Desk Pro have been a staple for collaboration for some time now, but the size is not conducive for employees who do not have a dedicated work space. The Webex Desk Mini is a smaller 15-inch device will be the ultimate home collaboration tool that features cutting edge technology and a timeless aesthetic. The smaller device will allow employees to create workspaces anywhere.
- Webex Whiteboard Pro. Whiteboarding is a great way to collaborate in a meeting, but until now, it hasn’t been device agnostic. Webex Whiteboarding allows users to create, collaborate, and share whiteboards on any device including the all new Webex Whiteboard Pro. This whiteboard of the future features cameras and directional audio that enables video conferencing while collaborating. I can see these coming to conference rooms everywhere.
Frictionless Workflows, Partnerships, and Security Features
Collaboration doesn’t happen in a silo. Employees use multiple apps, services, and even devices to get the job done. Webex recognizes the need for better interoperability and frictionless device, platform, and application switching. The team announced new partner integrations and platform interoperability that will drive better collaboration within Webex meetings.
All of these new features might seem like a headache for IT teams to manage, but with Cisco Meraki Insight and ThousandEyes, proactive management is simple. From AI-powered root cause analysis to digital experience monitoring, IT teams can ensure collaboration can happen with as few disruptions as possible.
Overall Impressions: The Future of Hybrid Work is Here
Only one day in the books for WebexOne and it’s clear that Cisco is most certainly showing an acute focus on delivering a broad solution set to meet the future of hybrid work by providing new solutions that enable seamless collaboration and drive inclusivity regardless of where an employee is located.
It’s important to note that competition for Webex is material with Slack (Salesforce), Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace all enabling collaboration in a myriad of ways, and all being backed by well supported big tech companies. But I feel encouraged by Cisco’s innovations in the space. Cisco is tapping into the knowledge and experience they gained through acquisitions this year to deliver experiences and devices that will be part of the workplace for years to come.
Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.
Other insights from Futurum Research: