I have to envy my colleagues in the Cisco IT ACE program: they get to play with the latest toys. For several months now they’ve been playing with the newest Cisco releases of video phones while the rest of us looked on. Just recently though, they’ve started showing up on Cisco desks – lots of desks. They’re sleek and look a little like Apple iMacs have taken over the workplace. The Cisco DX70 and DX80 have arrived and I’m certain if you could see them you’d be impressed. And you’d probably want to play with them, too. But what are they for?
Figure 1. Cisco DX70 and Cisco DX80
“The DX’s are a game-changer,” says Ravi Sharma, manager, TelePresence services in GIS, “A lot of Cisco work is becoming more collaborational over time – we work in teams. But our teams are all over the world. We see the DX as being the focus for that work, a very powerful replacement for phones.” In my opinion, the DX650 may be a replacement for phones; but the DX70 looks like a video conferencing unit (see Figure 1). And it has features that carry it a lot further than that.
First, they do video phoning very well. Both the DX70 and DX80 support full 1080p, 30 frames per second video, with Extension Mobility , and multiple line support, and Bluetooth built in for your mobile earpiece along with very high quality audio. (The Extension Mobility feature, though small, is important to me. That way when there’s a DX on any desk in my shared-office area, I can use it whenever there’s no one else using it. I don’t think these systems are going to see a lot of down-time.)
There’s a lot more to it than video telephony, though. These devices are personal, flexible and powerful collaboration endpoints designed to sit on any desk.
(As a jealous aside, while these devices are ready for “any” desk, and while they started out on IT engineers’ desks, it was Cisco Sales who got funding to deploy several thousand of them in Sales offices around the world as part of our endpoint refresh program. Cisco IT may get first try with the new toys, but Sales usually has the budget to get first major deployment for the good ones.)
What makes them flexible, powerful collaboration endpoints? They are full touch-screens, with native 1920 x 1080 touch-sensitivity. They run native WebEx meeting client and Jabber with Presence built-in, and connect back to corporate VPN gateways using native AnyConnect VPN. So I can do anything on the Internet AND the Cisco Intranet – and there’s a lot of tools on our Intranet. Far more than that, they also run any other Android 4 apps you load on, running on a secured Android platform. I still haven’t explored the range of Android apps yet, and I can’t speak to which apps work best for me on the DX, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
So what are they? Video phones? Android touch-screen smartpads? Collaboration workstations? Definitely yes. Backup PCs? Probably not, as there are applications on my laptop that may not translate to an Android touchscreen device. Still, along with being a hub for all my audio / video / web / collaboration tools, it’s also a handy second monitor for my laptop.
In action, the interface is pretty simple to use if you’ve had any experience with touch screen devices, even better if you’re familiar with Android devices. If not, they come with a standard setup wizard. Aside from the ease of setup, the video quality, and the small desktop footprint for a good-sized screen, what I think is cool about the DX70 and DX80 is the ability to share your apps while on a call. As it is an Android platform, you have full access to the Google Play store where you’ll find all our apps including WebEx, Cisco Jabber, Cisco Docs, and more.
The DX650 is more like our traditional IP Phones, with a bigger (and now touch sensitive) HD screen, and the high-quality audio that we’ve come to expect from Cisco telephony. This device also runs on the Security Enhanced Android platform. Like the other DX’s, you can customize it with wallpapers, widgets, and screen layouts, too, which makes a difference when you’re trying to make the phone part of your personal workspace.
Figure 2. Cisco DX650
Who will use this technology?
From the people I’ve talked to at Cisco, most of whom want one of these on their desk, I’d have to say “anyone with a phone on their desk”. And that includes me, working from my home office. Being a remote worker can be a bit isolating at times, and while working from home saves me time, increases my productivity, and enables a better work-life balance for me and my family, being remote from your team can take a social toll. As the price point makes the DX70’s and DX80’s affordable, it offers remote workers the ability to attend video meetings from home with the same experience they would have in the office – at least, outside of an immersive TelePresence room. It brings us closer to our colleagues which is what video is meant to do.
While the DX Series is designed as a desktop collaboration device, it brings more high-quality video conferencing onto the office desktop for a reason. I talked about this in my MX Series blog earlier, but it’s not enough to have TelePresence screens in every conference room. We have a real-estate problem at Cisco. TelePresence conference rooms are not always available, we’re not going to be building any new conference rooms, and while the MX Series tackles this problem with affordable screens, the DX Series tackles the need for more video by making high quality video available to every desktop.
So depending on needs, it’s a great high-end video phone, or a touchscreen smartpad with access to every Android widget you can imagine or an extra, bigger monitor for your laptop. Or all of the above, all at the same time. And there are a series of ports too so you can connect a wireless mouse, keyboard, headset, external camera, memory stick or thumb drive, to add more capabilities.
And these DX units fit nicely into Cisco culture. Cisco is a frontrunner in mobility and flexibility when it comes to the workplace. Cisco IT just won the 2014 IDG CITE Award for best business computing environment, based on the range of device choice and flexibility we give our employees. Bringing new and better video to the desktop is a part of Cisco IT’s mission to provide the workforce with video everywhere, and with more choice in the devices they use.
Some of the specs of the DX series devices:
- DX70 is a 14-inch, 16:9 touch screen device, 1080p HD video capability (bandwidth dependent), with Extension Mobility to support multiple profiles for hot-desking and shared workspaces
- DX80 is a 23-inch device with the same options
- DX650 7-inch, 16:9, touch screen IP phone, also with 1080p 30 fps quality.