Cisco Wants to Tidy Up Desktop Videoconferencing

The DX70 and DX80 are designed to do for desktop clutter what smartphones did for proliferating handheld gadgets.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

May 20, 2014

4 Min Read
Cisco Wants to Tidy Up Desktop Videoconferencing

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.

Figure 1: The DX80 Source: Cisco Source: Cisco

Figure 2: 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 [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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