Cisco puts video conferencing spotlight on individuals with new desktop, cloud products

New video conferencing wares include touch-screen desktop devices, as well as a "virtual meeting room" SaaS service

Cisco will target individual video conferencing users with new desktop devices and a cloud-based service, a move that complements a recent announcement focused on outfitting small and mid-size office meeting rooms.

"We want to bring a great video conferencing experience to every room, every office, every pocket," said Peder Ulander, vice president of Cisco's collaboration solutions marketing.

The new products, which will be announced at the Cisco Live 2014 conference on Monday, include the new DX line of video conferencing devices, which resemble all-in-one computers. They run the Android OS and have a large touch-screen display, integrated camera, microphone and soft phone.

"These new products bring telepresence to the desk," Ulander said.

They are designed to improve video and audio quality while consolidating the mish-mash of communications peripherals, like standalone webcams and external speakers, that clutter the desks of many employees and that, if they're from multiple vendors, sometimes create interoperability and driver complications.

The Cisco devices have HD displays and the company's Intelligent Audio technology, which filters out ambient background noise so that only the voice of speakers are heard, and Intelligent Proximity technology, which lets them link up with users' mobile phones.

The devices come with Bluetooth headsets and can also be used for Web browsing and for running Android apps. "It's like having a large-screen Android tablet on your desk," he said. "Anything that works on an Android tablet works on these devices."

They can also act as external displays for tablets and laptops running a variety of operating systems, including iOS, MacOS, Windows and Linux. "It's a personal collaboration device for your desktop," Ulander said.

The devices can be set up in a matter of minutes, according to Cisco. Each machine can be used by multiple users, each with their own log in credentials, settings, contact lists, call histories and the like.

The DX 80 has a 23-inch touch screen display and has a "list price" of about $3,000, while the DX 70 has a 14-inch touch screen display and costs about $1,000. Bought in bulk, the price of both models drops significantly, according to Cisco, which plans to ship them in June.

Meanwhile, Cisco's new Collaboration Meeting Room (CMR) is a software-as-a-service video conferencing product intended to complement WebEx Meetings software by offering a more ad-hoc user experience.

While WebEx Meetings is designed for more formal, pre-planned sessions like webinars and group meetings, CMR gives individuals their own, always available, cloud-hosted video conferencing space where they can host meetings on the fly even if they're not at their desks just by sending invitees a link to their "virtual" room.

Participants can join from a variety of endpoints, such as Cisco and non-Cisco video conferencing devices and software-based clients like Microsoft's Lync.

Price hasn't been determined, but it will be under $50 per user, per month, he said. Cisco expects to ship this product in September.

Cisco will also announce a new line of IP telephones. The 8800 Series adds performance improvements, features USB ports on some models for charging cell phones, the Intelligent Proximity technology for importing contacts and call history as well as the ability to let users transfer in-progress voice or video calls from their smartphones.

These desktop-focused products follow Cisco's announcement in March of a set of new wares aimed at the many office meeting rooms that lack video conferencing capabilities.

That announcement was intended to deepen Cisco's presence in a segment of the market that falls between its low-end WebEx line and its high-end, whole-room telepresence systems.

Others jockeying for space in enterprise video conferencing and collaboration include Microsoft, IBM, Google, Avaya, Siemens' Unify, Alcatel-Lucent, Mitel and ShoreTel.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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