Cisco bets on new products that increase remote work and compete with Zoom

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Tech giant Cisco is launching new touchscreens and interactive whiteboards as it seeks to capitalize on the growth of remote and flexible working and to increase its Webex service, a competitor of Zoom.

The San Jose-based company on Tuesday announced a list of new products as part of its WebexOne online conference, including a $ 1,245 24-inch Webex Desk touchscreen and a $ 995 15.6-inch WebEx Desk Mini, both of which marketed. in early 2022.

Cisco’s Webex Board Pro, a collaborative whiteboard that includes two cameras, is priced at $ 8,995 for 55 inches and $ 14,995 for 75 inches, with orders starting in November.

The company has made its own purchases, buying more than a dozen companies during the pandemic – including BabbleLabs, a speech-focused artificial intelligence technology company; Socio Labs, an online events service; and Involvio LLC, which will help Webex expand its educational functionality

In June, Cisco revamped the Webex product, charging a price for meetings, calling, messaging, and other features like events and surveys, rather than individual prices for each service. The move came as Zoom became a technological phenomenon during the pandemic and gained market share over Webex.

In the fiscal quarter between May and July, Cisco revenue increased 8% to $ 13.13 billion from a year earlier. The gains were primarily in the company’s core infrastructure platforms division, with sales increasing 13% to $ 7.55 billion from a year earlier. Cisco routers, switches, and data center infrastructure are an important part of the Internet backbone.

The company’s Applications division, which includes Webex, posted revenue of $ 1.34 billion, down 1% from the previous year. In the same three months, Zoom reported revenue of $ 1.02 billion, up 54% from the previous year,

Cisco’s presence in both hardware and software sets it apart from Zoom. It is also intended for users of several services. The new touchscreens are compatible not only with WebEx, but also with competing technology companies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Discord. Users can also share YouTube videos.

“Other manufacturers might say they have hardware that does that as well. But the difference is with ours, you don’t need to restart the hardware every time. You can therefore click on a button and you are in Zoom. You can click a button, you’re on Teams, whereas with everyone else you have to do a hard reset, ”said Jeetu Patel, CEO of Webex.

Jeetu Patel, Managing Director of Webex, is pictured next to a Webex Desk Pro (left) and Webex Desk (right) on a home office in a studio in South San Francisco.

Léa Suzuki / The Chronicle

New Cisco features include live translation into over 100 different languages, audio balancing that increases voice volume for people sitting further away from devices, and tools for workers on the go.

“We have a technology called background noise cancellation where you can walk into a completely noisy cafe, and that will eliminate all the noise. No one on the call will ever know, ”said Aruna Ravichandran, Webex Marketing Director.

Another new feature crops people’s faces during a video call so that they have equal screen space, even if multiple people join a call from a single camera and are sitting at different places. It’s an effort to make video conferencing more inclusive, whether workers are at home or in the office.

“What are you doing to provide people with flexibility, inclusiveness, mental health, well-being and support? Patel said. “Everyone should have an equal seat at the table, regardless of where the table is located, and people should have an equal voice so that they feel heard and no one feels left out of the meeting. . “

Michael Thoma, a technical marketing engineer, writes with a stylus on a Webex Board Pro during a demonstration on set at a studio in South San Francisco.

Michael Thoma, Technical Marketing Engineer, writes with a stylus on a Webex Board Pro during a demonstration on set at a studio in South San Francisco.

Léa Suzuki / The Chronicle

The company’s survey found that 64% of people agreed that the ability to work remotely directly influenced their willingness to keep a job. He also revealed that 47% of people in a meeting do not speak, suggesting that too many meetings overwhelm people and make them disengaged. Patel sees this as a business opportunity, using technology to make video conferencing more productive and engaging.

Cisco’s challenges include supply chain disruptions that could make it more difficult to obtain parts and increase the price of products, and the company expects challenges until at least January 2022 and potentially until. next July.

“There are going to be shortages for the foreseeable future,” Patel said.

Roland Li is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @rolandlisf



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