With Collab Release 10 Cisco has hit a par, birdie, and one ball is still in the air.
The par is Collaboration Edge. Candidly – this capability is required to be on an even playing field with Microsoft Lync. This capability allows an employee to take their client from the office to their house, to anywhere in-between – and have it just work. Cisco’s previous position was to require users to use a VPN client – whether theirs or someone else’s, to connect to the on premise equipment including Unified Communications Manager, Unity Connection, and more. I’m thrilled and relieved that Cisco has finally relented on that view to allow employees to have a client that just works regardless of where they are. Matt Rehm did a fantastic write-up about that here.
The birdie – at least in theory is Intelligent Proximity. Intelligent Proximity is the name given to a set of features including the ability to dynamically synch your mobile device contacts with an endpoint, the ability to use a mobile device to dynamically control an endpoint, and the ability for an endpoint to know you are near and use your mobile device as a second screen for content sharing. Features like these are what customers ask for, that previously we’ve had to nod and smile in agreement that that would be cool. Now we have the ability to say yes – you can make video a personal experience, using your personal mobile devices. Let’s face it – would I rather have an interface for a endpoint on my personal device that I’m attached to and carry everywhere – or on an interface that everyone shares. Intelligent Proximity is using technology not expected today – it is not bluetooth, it is another technology that has not yet been announced. Imagine for a minute, the experience Intelligent Proximity offers you. You walk into a conference room, and launch an app on your iPad. The app automatically pairs with and figures out which room you are in, so when you call the person or bridge using your iPad, you are automatically controlling the endpoint you are sitting in front of. You place a call using your call history, or by searching in a directory. Once on the call, the other party starts presenting. The slides being presented are not only pushed to the conference screen, but to your mobile devices as well. If you want to grab a copy of a slide – you simply capture it on your mobile device. This is fantastic functionality – that has the potential to give users a new and intuitive experience – something lacking in video conferencing for the last 20 years.
For now – Intelligent Proximity is:
- Sharing of contacts with a room system video endpoint
- Sharing of contacts with a personal device like a high end phone/video endpoint
- Ability to dynamically control an endpoint from a phone app
- Ability to view and interact with content while on a video call
- Ability to control cell phone from a desk phone device – just like you would in your car
I say this is a birdie in theory because until the product ships, it would be naive to call it a success. I can say the demo was a smashing success at the Collab Partner Summit, and will be the focus of much of the “buzz” at Enterprise Connect in March.
The ball still in the air is Jabber Guest. Jabber Guest is Cisco’s long anticipated offering to match and surpass Skype’s simplicity for connecting consumers with enterprises. The vision is simple – connect people using a web browser. No more need for specialized hardware. Instead use native browser capabilities across any device and any platform. Skip the need to install special software, or even plugins. Connect grandma and her investment advisor as simply and richly as grandma calling her grandkids on FaceTime. Connect your customers to your support staff as easily and richly as they call their kids. The reason this ball is in the air is we’ll need to see how the market really reacts to this in the short term. I have no doubt this will be important in the future – but neither was Apple doubtful about tablets when they launched Newton. Is the market ready to adopt this NOW? We’ll know better in 18 months. Amazon is trying it out with Mayday, but they have the advantage of owning all the assets in the conversation. Cisco is looking to provide the platform, and wants their customers to provide the use cases.