WebexOne 2021: Cisco Paints a Portrait of the Hybrid Workplace

G. Willsky

Summary Bullets:

  • WebexOne 2021 provided a window into how Cisco sees the hybrid workplace evolving.
  • Cisco has been aggressive in improving the Webex platform yet still faces intense competition.

Introduction

Like its competition, Cisco has made supporting hybrid work the focal point of its cloud-based collaboration initiatives.  But Cisco stands out as being especially aggressive in assembling hybrid work capabilities.  In the past 12 months, the flagship Webex platform has seen more than 1,000 improvements.  The latest round was dissected at the recent WebexOne 2021 event.  The occasion served as not only a showcase of the latest and greatest from Cisco, but also a window into how the company sees the market evolving.  Some of the key highlights are described below.

Hybrid Work

Cisco has focused its collaboration initiatives on supporting hybrid work.  Cisco feels organizations have an opportunity to define the future of work in terms of where, how, and when work is performed.  Cisco believes seamless collaboration between virtual and in-person employees is the hallmark of a successful hybrid work implementation.  Cisco also believes that hybrid work in the truest sense connects entire organizations in addition to traversing departments.

Voice Calling

In Cisco’s opinion, voice will continue to play an important role in collaboration.  It hosts eight billion calls monthly on Webex, and its cloud calling footprint covers four million users.  To better support voice, Cisco launched WebexGo, which allows business calls to be sent and received on a personal device using the native dialer.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Cisco recognizes that augmented reality (AR) is quickly gaining traction as a collaboration tool.  To meet rising demand, Cisco announced Webex Hologram.  The technology creates 3D holograms of meeting participants by combining Webex meeting functionality with AR hardware from any vendor.

Hardware

In a move that nods to its hardware roots and acknowledges an industry trend toward interoperability, Cisco introduced several hardware components and announced that Webex devices can now be used for meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Workspace.

Interoperability

Interoperability between competitor platforms – whether hardware or software – is quickly becoming the norm and reflective of the hyper-competitive nature of the cloud-based collaboration space.  It’s an homage to the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  It’s also recognition by competitors that customers prefer to work with multiple hardware and software suppliers rather than being locked into a single provider.  Cisco stands as one of those competitors.

Events

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing some signs of abating, large-scale, multi-session events are coming back into vogue.  To stay in step, Cisco has expanded its Webex Events portfolio to include hybrid event management capabilities and support for webinars of up to 10,000 attendees and webcasts of up to 100,000 participants.

Closing

Cisco’s efforts in the hybrid work space have been highly commendable.  The company has sustained an impressive cadence, velocity, and volume of enhancements to its flagship Webex platform.  Cisco has left virtually no stone unturned with improvements spanning a wide range of areas.  But despite aggressively moving the needle, Cisco must contend with unrelenting pressure from competitors such as Microsoft, Google, and Zoom.  The company surely has its work cut out for it.

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