Cisco Systems owned up to some miscalculations in its video collaboration strategy but showed off some promising future capabilities in a briefing with media this week.
The company's video meeting business is best known for its TelePresence Meeting Systems, especially the high-profile three-screen meeting rooms that include Cisco-designed furniture and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But Cisco is now looking beyond those swanky environments toward mobile devices that can bring video meetings to participants wherever they are.
One platform intended as part of that strategy, the company's Android-based Cius tablet, has been cut from future development plans, said Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president and general manager of the Collaboration Technology Group, during the briefing at Cisco on Thursday afternoon. Cisco discussed the move in a blog post later on Thursday. The Cius will still be available for companies that specifically want a device issued and tightly controlled by the IT department, but Cisco won't be developing more form factors for the platform, O'Sullivan said.
Cisco now acknowledges most enterprises let employees bring their own tablets to work, citing its own survey that said 95 percent of companies have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.
"When we talk to them about the Cius tablet, they say, we love the collaboration experience on Cius, but can you please take that software and put it on other devices?" O'Sullivan said.
"Our strategy for the future is all about software," O'Sullivan said.
The next chapter in that push is a new client for Jabber, Cisco's voice, video, instant-messaging and presence platform, coming this summer. Jabber clients are already available for Apple iOS and for Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform, as well as Windows PCs, and will soon come out for general Android tablets, he said.
The new Jabber client will allow users to take video calls on PCs, tablets and Cisco TelePresence systems and transfer the calls from one platform to another. Cisco APIs (application programming interfaces) allow Jabber functions to be integrated into Microsoft Outlook so users can find contacts and start Jabber calls from Outlook, and this integration will be expanded in the new versions.
At the briefing, Cisco demonstrated Jabber sessions being moved among different platforms. It also showed users of third-party videoconferencing systems, including Microsoft Lync and a Polycom HDX system, becoming full participants in a Cisco TelePresence meeting. Cisco's inclusion of industry standards including SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), H.323 and H.264 make this possible, the company said.
The full-scale TelePresence platform is still marching forward despite the new emphasis on bringing in diverse clients. And real-time translation of telepresence meetings is back on Cisco's roadmap.
In late 2008, Cisco video chief Marthin De Beer said that he expected that feature to go on sale with 20 languages in the second half of 2009. But a year later, Cisco said the system's accuracy wasn't high enough and the company didn't even have a forecast for when it would go on sale.
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