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June 2, 2021
Computex News from AMD, Intel and Nvidia Demonstrates Strength of PC Suppliers

May 18, 2021
Google Smart Canvas Brings Integrated Collaboration to Workspace

May 11, 2021
IBM Simplifies Automation with Watson Orchestrate

May 5, 2021
Dell’s APEX Brings Hardware as a Service to the Mainstream

April 28, 2021
Arm Brings New Compute Options from the Cloud to the Edge

April 21, 2021
Apple Announcements Accelerate Custom Chip Transition

April 13, 2021
Nvidia Steps Up Enterprise and Automotive Efforts with GTC Announcements

April 6, 2021
AWS and Verizon Bring Private 5G and Edge Computing to Life with Corning

March 31, 2021
Cisco Wants to Make Hybrid Work Actually Work

March 23, 2021
Intel Reinvigorates Manufacturing Strategy with IDM 2.0

March 16, 2021
AMD Refocuses on Business with Latest Epyc and Ryzen Pro Launches

March 9, 2021
GlobalFoundries and Bosch Emphasize Shift in Automotive Semis

March 2, 2021
Microsoft Brings AI Appliances and Improved Connectivity to IoT

February 23, 2021
Cybersecurity Deal Highlights Benefits of 5G and AI in PCs

February 16, 2021
Will Conference Rooms Help or Hurt in the Return to Work?

February 9, 2021
The Ever-Present Need for Simplicity in Tech

February 2, 2021
Poly Makes Videoconferencing Personal

January 26, 2021
2021 Shaping Up to Be Big Year for Automotive Tech

January 12, 2021
What CES 2021 Says About Our Future

January 5, 2021
Big Tech Trends for 2021 Are Hybridization and Customization

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TECHnalysis Research Blogs
TECHnalysis Research president Bob O'Donnell publishes commentary on current tech industry trends every Tuesday at LinkedIn.com in the TECHnalysis Research Insights Newsletter and those blog entries are reposted here as well. In addition, those columns are also reprinted on Techspot and SeekingAlpha.

He also writes a regular column in the Tech section of USAToday.com and those columns are posted here. Some of the USAToday columns are also published on partner sites, such as MSN.

He also writes a 5G-focused column for Forbes that can be found here and that is archived here.

In addition, he also occasionally writes guest columns in various publications, including Fast Company and engadget. Those columns are reprinted here.

June 8, 2021
Cisco Extends Webex to Suite of Offerings

By Bob O'Donnell

The importance and relevance of return-to-office technologies has never been more obvious than it is right now. After 15+ months of pandemic-driven work from home efforts, there’s now a tremendous focus on figuring out how to both enable hybrid work strategies and bring employees back to the office safely, equitably, and effectively. As it turns out, that’s proving to be a lot harder than it sounds.

Like many other vendors developing and selling video-based communications tools, Cisco has been working to evolve its offering—Webex—into a tool that can meet the many challenges these new situations present. As with its competitors, it has been incrementally adding new features and capabilities at an extremely rapid pace, in some cases playing catch-up, while in many others, driving important innovations. (In point of fact, the speed with which video communication platforms have been upgraded is probably the best example in the history of software development of the benefits that rapid DevOps environments can enable—but that’s a story for another day.)

With the company’s latest announcement of the Webex Suite, however, Cisco is taking a big step forward along the path of enabling a complete platform and new environment for future methods of collaborative work. Recognizing that merely adding lots of relatively modest enhancements is a challenging strategy for the long-term, the company instead is now tying together several larger assets (including those acquired from Slido and Socio) into a more comprehensive offering. Webex Suite combines the video-based meeting, calling, and messaging of Webex along with the polling and other interactive collaboration tools of Slido and Socio’s event and large meeting-focused capabilities into a single experience. The Suite is so important to the company that its announcement was also used as an opportunity to unveil a slick new logo for Webex and to kick off what looks to be a very comprehensive new marketing campaign.

Leveraging its unique position as both software and branded hardware provider for video-based communication tools, Cisco also made some significant price reductions on its growing cadre of videoconferencing-enabled hardware for cloud-based customers of the new Suite. In fact, many of the prices (which, to be fair, were too high to begin with) are literally getting cut in half. For example, the 23” screen-based all-in-one PC type design of its Webex Desk goes from $2,495 to a much more palatable $1,249, and the Room Kit Mini system for small meeting rooms drops from $3,190 to $1,499.

While it’s easy to overlook these changes as simple price drops, I believe that, for many organizations, this could be some of the most important news to come out of these recent announcements. The problem is that most companies are woefully underequipped when it comes to high-quality, modern videoconferencing software-compatible hardware systems. Sure, every company has a few well-equipped rooms, but if we’re to believe Cisco’s proclamations that 98% of all future meetings will have at least one remote participant (and I honestly don’t doubt it) that means every single meeting room or space that a company has will need to be equipped for video-based meetings.

I’ve yet to see any great research to quantify this, but I’d be willing to bet that less than 10% of meeting spaces in even the best-equipped organizations currently have that capability, which means that enormous amounts of videoconferencing-capable hardware may soon be purchased. (Hence my enthusiasm for Cisco’s aggressive new hardware pricing.) To Cisco’s credit, it is even working on adding support for Zoom, Google’s Meet, and even Microsoft Teams to most of its newer videoconferencing hardware, acknowledging the multi-platform reality we all experience on a regular basis.

As you would expect, of course, Cisco’s hardware is going to be best suited to work with Webex. To that end, the company is working to extend the capabilities of its own software offering with Webex Suite. The integration of Slido capabilities, in particular, helps overcome the previous awkwardness of having to run a separate Slido client app in order to use its capabilities on a Webex call. Not only will this dramatically increase the usage of Slido’s audience engagement and collaboration-focused functions, but it will also serve as an important differentiator for Cisco as none of the other competitive platforms have this level of capabilities.

Similarly, the comprehensive range of digital event-focused capabilities coming from its pending Socio acquisition helps set up Webex as the platform of choice for large virtual events. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it seems pretty clear that no matter how many people do end up returning to the office or do start travelling again for business conferences and tradeshows, virtual events are going to be a part of our collective future for some time to come. They are simply too cost-effective and too far-reaching to be ignored. Tools that can help make them easier to organize and run are going to be a critical part of many organizations’ toolkits—a point upon which Cisco is clearly eager to capitalize.

In addition, Cisco has been building on last year’s acquisition of BabbleLabs to improve the audio quality of calls in Webex. That acquisition gave Cisco access to clever AI-based technologies that can remove background noise and increase clarity, even on low-bandwidth connections—a feature that is greatly prized by many end-users. From an IT perspective, Cisco has also been beefing up the security of Webex, offering end-to-end encryption with verified ID, helping to assure customers about potential privacy and other call hacking-related concerns.

Ultimately, the issues related to return-to-work go well beyond what even the most comprehensive, video-based collaboration tool can provide. Questions about employee willingness, vaccination requirements, company policies, work-related FOMO (fear of missing out), office reconfigurations, and hot desking/hoteling are likely to end up being significantly harder to solve than what the enormous work-at-home experiment proved to be when employees left their offices well over a year ago. Still, as companies work to resolve these challenging issues, there’s no question that they’re going to continue to rely on the communications tools, like Webex, that have allowed them to succeed thus far. In fact, that dependence is likely to grow, making Cisco’s strong new Webex Suite about as well-timed as it could possibly be.

Here’s a link to the original column: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4433622-cisco-extends-webex-to-suite-of-offerings

Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.

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