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Cisco Wants to Tidy Up Desktop Videoconferencing

Mitch Wagner
5/20/2014
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SAN FRANCISCO -- CiscoLive -- Cisco introduced hardware on Monday designed to make personal videoconferencing affordable, attractive, and practical. The DX80 is a 23-inch computer monitor that doubles as a high-performance videoconferencing unit and touchscreen Android tablet. The DX70 has a smaller display with the same videoconferencing technology and Android capabilities, designed for people who aren't looking to use it as a primary display.

Videoconferencing has failed to follow the technology path blazed by smartphones, which combine phone, digital camera, notepad, GPS, music player, and PalmPilot -- previously all separate devices -- into a single compact unit, said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and GM of the Cisco Collaboration Technology Group. But desktop videoconferencing users still deal with device proliferation. "Today's typical desktop is cluttered with monitors, speakers, cameras, phones, keyboards, and PCs. Rather than creating an experience that enables productivity, technology gets in the way," he said.

Also, bandwidth and processor requirements for video are generally too steep for many users. Put it together and that makes videoconferencing hard to use, complicated to configure, and lousy quality.

The DX units are intended to change that. The big model looks like an iMac, and can serve as an external PC monitor. It's also a standalone Android tablet. The 24-inch DX80 will be priced under $2,000 and the DX70, with smaller screen, will be under $1,000.

The DX80
Source: Cisco
Source: Cisco

The DX70
Source: Cisco
Source: Cisco

Both units can serve as standalone videoconferencing devices, but the bigger DX80 is also designed to replace an external display for a desktop computer.

The devices incorporate hardware, software and connect to a cloud service designed to ensure an easy-to-use, high-quality video experience. Onboard processors handle compression and decompression for good video and audio on low bandwidth connections. The units have four microphones to automatically detect -- -and suppress -- sound coming from sources off-camera, to minimize distractions from loud-talking co-workers in open offices, and barking dogs and crying babies in home offices.

The touchscreens allow the devices to be used as shared sketchboards, and tilt easily to a 45-degree angle so people sharing a videoconference can start sketching out ideas onscreen as easily as they might do with paper and pen in a face-to-face meeting, Trollope said.

Android support allows the devices to run applications, including purpose-built vertical apps for industries such as healthcare. The units connect to existing address books and calendars, including Active Directory, Google, and Apple iCal. Integration with address books and calendars eliminates another obstacle to videoconferencing and conferencing systems like Cisco's WebEx, where people make clerical errors transcribing and misdialing dial-in numbers and conference codes. With the DX units, uses just click a big JOIN button when it's time to join a conference.

Similarly Cisco launched its Collaborative Meeting Room cloud service, which assigns a virtual meeting room to each individual, where they can meet with other people on a variety of devices and services, including WebEx, Microsoft Lync, Polycom conference phones, web browsers, or any other service supporting the SIP protocol. That service, which extends WebEx incorporating Intercloud, will be available from Cisco partners later this year.

Several customers took the stage with Cisco to describe how they're using the DX units. Paras and Associates provides translation services for healthcare providers. CEO Melinda Paras sees videoconferencing as an intermediate level of service that's better than phone. Though not as good as face-to-face translation, video is less expensive. Every nursing station in the world should have a unit like the DX, she declared.

David Day, global director of WorkPlace Services for Dow Chemical, sees videoconferencing as a way to extend Dow corporate culture to younger employees and the developing world.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

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Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/21/2014 | 9:43:15 PM
Re: Again
gconnery - "Seriously, we all have desktop computers.  Why would we need another device to do video conferencing on?  In case Cisco hasn't noticed we're all running Skype or Google Hangouts or WebEx or whatever on our PCs already.  Without spending another $2000 on a dedicated device that will only work with Cisco's own conferencing solution?"

Cisco says desktop computers result in substandard videoconferencing that people don't want to use. These devices will be great for videoconferencing and they'll make good desktop displays too. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/21/2014 | 9:40:39 PM
Re: Again
I'm here at CiscoLive, where coinicidentally I ended up talking with someone about the Flip acquisition. They said it's likely Cisco dumped flip because Cisco realized the B2C business is outside its bailiwick. 

Which leads to the obvious question: Why did Cisco buy it in the first place, then?

At a press Q&A, John Chambers said Cisco isn't getting into the B2C business ever again. Theyr'e done with that. Of course, Chambers is retiring soon and maybe his successor will feel differently.

One interesting element about this announcement is that it's an attempt to create a B2B product that's as enjoyable to use as an Apple product. B2B products usually aren't enjoyable for the end-user at all. 
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/21/2014 | 9:10:51 AM
Re: Again
I've always wondered why the need for a dedicated video system, with the proliferation of existing means for video conferences, most of which are free. And Cisco left a bad taste in my mouth after shutting down the Flip camera which was one of the cooler items and most convenient cameras I've ever had. I used it for years until it broke down recently. But, Cisco is smarter than me, and they must have some pretty good intelligence or guesses as to what they're doing with the new projects. Maybe they just have a lot of existing customers to sell the newest video versions to?
thebulk
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thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/21/2014 | 8:12:46 AM
Re: Again
@gconnery, 

Yeah, pretty much I can use facetime or skype or Habgout to talk to anyone fairly easily without having to install a cisco product. 
thebulk
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thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/21/2014 | 8:09:50 AM
Re: Again
Given the failure of Umi I hope they are going to change a lot of things about this platform. But it does seem that Cisco loves all things IP video right now and maybe they have something new in store for us. 
thebulk
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thebulk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/21/2014 | 8:08:32 AM
Re: Again
I also thought the flip was a cool gadget, but had some shortcomings like its software platform. Also it was really a poorly timed item as the mobile device really became the go to camera and video camera, why would I carry another device when I had one on my mobile phone which I am always carrying anyway. 

 
gconnery
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50%
gconnery,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/20/2014 | 6:12:39 PM
Re: Again
Yup.  Not a great idea either time.


Seriously, we all have desktop computers.  Why would we need another device to do video conferencing on?  In case Cisco hasn't noticed we're all running Skype or Google Hangouts or WebEx or whatever on our PCs already.  Without spending another $2000 on a dedicated device that will only work with Cisco's own conferencing solution? 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/20/2014 | 12:16:57 PM
Video love
Of course Cisco loves video in all it's forms. Video is very demanding of networks. Similarly, Exxon loves Hummers.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/20/2014 | 12:15:47 PM
Re: Again
I was very surprised by the death of the Flip. It was a great product. I expect Cisco saw it as a market too small to bother with. And perhaps Cisco foresaw that smartphones would eliminate the entire category.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/20/2014 | 12:14:12 PM
Re: WebRTC
I haven't heard anything from Cisco about WebRTC here. But day 2 is just beginning.
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