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Reinventing Conferencing

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What kind of a world will you live in three years from now? How about five? Will your personal robot pour you a drink after your self-driving car delivers you home? That’s where we’re headed, and it’s a pretty quick trip: self-driving cars are already on public roads and you’ll soon be able to buy that humanoid robot.

Cisco’s Collaboration team thinks a lot about the future—not just about how we’ll get around and get our drinks, but about how we’ll connect and collaborate. We’re passionate about the future of collaboration, about giving the world collaboration tools that are every bit as smart as those self-driving cars and whiskey-pouring robots.

Where we’re at: today’s challenges
Before we talk more about the future, let’s talk about where the industry is right now. Over the years, various vendors have given us audio conferencing, web conferencing, and video conferencing. Each of these technologies were introduced at different times, and have matured at different paces—with audio being the tried-and-true veteran, video conferencing the relative newcomer and web being the thing that came somewhere in-between.

Herein lies the problem: these technologies have remained largely siloed, requiring meeting organizers to pick and choose which to use. Sometimes it feels like you need a crystal ball every time you schedule a meeting in order to predict how various people will be able to join. Will Stacy be near a telepresence room, so we can do a video conference? Will we need to add a web conference for Paul who is in his home office?…at that time of day, will the East Coasters already be driving home, meaning we can only do audio?

Enough! None of this picking and choosing between web, video, and audio; all you want is a great meeting—why can’t there be a single, simple, delightful way for everyone to connect, no matter where they are or what technology they are using?

However, our problem has a Part Two. What happens when its time to meet? You must enter passcodes. And host codes. And attendee IDs. You enter a dizzying number of digits before you can even say “hello”. Remember what I said about Cisco thinking a lot about the future? Well, this won’t fly… people may swipe and double-click, but they won’t use collaboration that’s protected behind a string of numbers 14 digits long.

To solve for these problems, today Cisco is announcing the availability of the new WebEx—web, video andaudio conferencing all in one, with a gorgeous new user interface. Plus, with the new Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms service in the cloud, users get their own “Personal Room”— one persistent meeting location that is just yours. It’s simple to remember and has the same easy one-touch join regardless of device or flavor of conferencing you use. No need to search for the magic numbers for each individual meeting; your personal room details are constant and you can even “lock” the room so only invited participants can join.

It’s just like your physical office, only it’s virtual and it’s in the cloud. The new Webex with Personal Rooms isn’t video conferencing. It isn’t web conferencing. It isn’t audio conferencing. It’s just amazingly simple, highly mobile, conferencing. It is all the technology you need in one place, so you can get on with making your meetings productive. We’re excited about the implications of this technology—both for our customers and also for our partners.

It’s all about bringing a more human element to meetings but with the attention to detail that Cisco is known for. What do you think about the new WebEx? What do you think about merging all three conferencing categories into one? Let me know on Twitter: @rowantrollope.

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