Cisco Upgrades WebEx, Takes Steps to Make Conferencing Easier for All

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Cognizant that the world hates meetings, Cisco is taking the wraps off a software upgrade this week that should make life better for legions of office workers who toil away in audio, Web and video teleconferences.

This week, the San Jose networking giant is unveiling a new version of WebEx, the collaboration software that vendor and its partners sell as a service.

The new WebEx has a cleaner and more intuitive interface, and some behind-the-scenes improvements that make it easier to schedule, host and manage meetings. In addition, the company has upgraded the audio and video quality of WebEx, bringing a high-definition capability to almost any meeting no matter the device or location attendees choose.

More than a technology upgrade, the new WebEx is also an experience and usage upgrade, said Richard McLeod, senior director of collaboration for Cisco’s Worldwide Channels organization.

“With this upgrade, we are reinventing conferencing,” he said. The company, he added, has stepped back and soaked up what people love and loathe about electronic meetings and collaborations, and worked to fundamentally change the experience. In particular, it has zeroed in on the entire experience — from scheduling and managing to how things look and feel.

In particular, Cisco has tried to reduce the disparity in quality among audio, video and Web conferences. By unifying the technologies, Cisco hopes users will simply think in terms of conferencing, and leverage all three of the collaborative technologies in a more seamless manner regardless of the types of technologies used or number of participants.

“Cisco is the market leader in all three categories and probably the only company than can bring these technologies together in a seamless fashion,” said McLeod. In particular, he added, the company has improved the mobile experience and will soon add functionality making it easier to transfer experiences between different devices such as superior video displays when available.

With the new Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms service available in the new WebEx cloud, users will their own “Personal Room,” which is a single space where meetings can be created on the fly. The Personal Room cuts down on the steps required to schedule a meeting and join one, too.

To help jump-start sales of the new WebEx, Cisco is offering customers a new try-before-you-buy program. The idea is to make it easier for line of business buyers to acquire the technology. With the company’s Business Edition 6000, customers will receive 10 free WebEx licenses for 90 days.

“Hopefully our partners will take that trial and then turn the[opportunity] into far more than 10 users,” said McLeod.

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