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Cisco 'Mobility First': Collaboration offerings for mobile workforces

Cisco 'Mobility First' vision unveiled, including collaboration software and connectivity services for the mobile workforce.

Cisco announced its "Mobility First" vision for collaboration, unveiling a series of software updates and new endpoints that address the need for internal and external mobile collaboration.

Cisco is helping users bridge connectivity and is making it easier for users to reach enterprise services on their mobile devices, said Bill Haskins, senior analyst for Duxbury, Mass.-based Wainhouse Research LLC.

The devices employees are bringing to work are also pushing us to rethink what collaboration means in the modern workplace.

Chris Wiborg, director of collaboration portfolio marketing, Cisco

"The news is really around how [Cisco] is bringing [its products] together to create new experiences for end users as they change the way they work," said Chris Wiborg, director of collaboration portfolio marketing for Cisco. "The devices employees are bringing to work are also pushing us to rethink what collaboration means in the modern workplace."

Cisco mobility: Expanding collaboration outside of the enterprise

The internal user collaboration experience isn't easy to replicate for users outside of an enterprise, such as guests, contractors, customers and partners. The new Cisco Expressway gateway, built on Cisco's Collaboration Edge Architecture, allows users outside the organization to connect securely to collaboration tools internal to the business. The new gateway eliminates the need for a VPN connection; users can join and start collaborating from the unified communications (UC) or collaboration application itself with Transport Layer Security.

"The voice, video or collaboration session is still encrypted and secure through the firewall, but the user doesn't need to have an account or a password inside the organization," Wiborg said. 

Jabber Guest -- a new technology announced as part of the Cisco mobile collaboration portfolio -- will use Cisco Expressway to allow external users to participate in voice, HD video and content-sharing meetings with internal enterprise employees via a Web link. "[Jabber Guest] can move the value of collaboration that an enterprise has internally [to] outside and beyond -- like in a business-to-consumer use case, or for collaboration with partners and suppliers," Wiborg said.  

The technology is built to support the upcoming WebRTC standard, he said. "Once [WebRTC] is finalized, the expectation is that the plug-in won't be needed for Jabber Guest."  

Cisco simplifies mobile collaboration management, introduces new voice and video endpoints

To address customers that have embraced bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, Cisco introduced Intelligent Proximity, technology that will allow users to move communication sessions from personal mobile devices to desk phones and other endpoints seamlessly. Intelligent Proximity can also synchronize call logs and contact information between a mobile client and a desk phone.

"Calls can be transitioned from the cell phone to fixed desk phones with better speakers and microphones for a better experience," Wiborg said. Intelligent Proximity currently works on Cisco's Android-based D650 Smart Desk Phone, as well as Android and Apple mobiles phones.

More on Cisco mobility and mobile collaboration

Mobile collaboration: Users don't need full toolset

Cisco Unified Workspace enables mobility management

The truth about mobile UC and collaboration uptake

In addition to new client and software releases, Cisco announced two new endpoints at its Collaboration Summit: the Cisco Telepresence MX300 and the Cisco IP Phone 7800 Series. Intelligent Proximity can help users connect to the MX300, a room-based system that can connect with up to four endpoints for a telepresence meeting without a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU). Content from the dual-display meeting screen can also be pushed to a user's mobile device and vice versa, so meeting attendees can share documents during meetings or scroll through another person's presentation at their own pace.   

The new Cisco IP Phone 7800 Series is a hardware offering for midmarket customers -- a desk phone that can intelligently power down during off-hours to save energy and costs, Wiborg said.  

Cisco also updated its Cisco Prime Collaboration platform, giving IT a single management console to support Cisco's full collaboration portfolio -- including voice and video. "This will simplify initial set up and configuration, but also the ongoing, maintaining and operating of the collaboration environment for IT teams," he said. 

Mobile collaboration: Not all about the mobile device

It may seem counterintuitive for a vendor to release a new telepresence offering as part of its mobility announcement, but Cisco understands that mobile collaboration and unified communications aren't just about mobile devices, said Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc.

While employees need the ability to work from any location or device, users don't want to work from their small smartphones if they don't have to.    

"Cisco has not taken its eye off of the greater need for mobility, and is not making it just about the mobile device -- like tablets or smartphones," he said. "Employees that work remotely need a setup that's comfortable and will help them perform effectively, regardless of whether they roam around or are at a fixed remote location."

The Cisco mobile strategy may be broad, but the vendor is developing deeper capabilities to support each mobile use case, Arnold said. "Mobility isn't just BYOD, and it doesn't replace the need for fixed-location technology."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter. 

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