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Eliminating Distance by Putting Experience First

It was the simplest product requirement I have ever written. Just one sentence: “Bring Telepresence to the desktop and make it CEO-proof”. When we launched in March 2010 industry analyst Andrew Davies at Wainhouse Research wrote: “For most of my life I wanted a Porsche, now I think I want a Tandberg EX90 instead.” At a time where PC based video was still pretty useless and the iPad was not even invented, it became very clear to us that we had totally nailed it.

And never had the timing of a product been better. Less than a month after the EX90 launched, Cisco acquired Norwegian video industry leader Tandberg, and an incredible journey integrating people, cultures and products began.

Back then I didn’t work from home instead of going to the office, I worked from home during evenings and nights to get stuff done across the somewhat unsympathetic 9-hour Oslo-California time difference. And most of the time I did not even think of it as work. It was an adventure getting to know amazingly talented people on the other side of the world and be able to take part in groundbreaking innovations through our own technology that truly eliminates distance.

The game changing 2010 Cisco Telepresence EX90 (left) has evolved to the equally game changing 2020 Cisco Webex Desk Pro (right)
The game-changing 2010 Cisco Telepresence EX90 (left) has evolved to the equally game-changing 2020 Cisco Webex Desk Pro (right)

A New Bar Across the Enterprise

And, it wasn’t just me. Cisco as a whole began to operate that way. Being able to immerse in video at home was infectious and within a couple of years, thousands of EX90s were deployed across Cisco. Some years later we took a stab at democratizing the experience and released a similar but more affordable DX80. Currently, more than 30.000 DX80’s are deployed in Cisco employees´ homes across the world, and they have set a new high bar for personal video experience across the company.

Some weeks into COVID-19-lockdown my good colleague Amit Barave sent me a message: “It kills me to see all the laptop wielding WFH warriors if they had tried a DX80 they would never go back!” This coming from the product lead of the best video conferencing app on the planet carries a lot of weight. While a PC based solution can get you through a couple of hours of meetings per day without fatigue, a dedicated video device has so many advantages when you spend all day in meetings:

  • Great audio reproduction is the most important aspect of any video meeting. This requires high-quality microphones and loudspeakers that reproduce voice well. Collaboration works best when you can hear one another as if you are sitting at the same table.
  • To have authentic interactions, you need a high-quality camera that adjusts to changing light conditions and is placed correctly for proper eye contact and good framing.
  • You need a screen that has the necessary screen real estate for close to a life-sized representation of who you are meeting or the ability to see many meeting participants well at the same time.
  • You should be able to pull up a spreadsheet, presentation, or quickly respond to a chat message during meetings and not disrupt your call.
  • You need your meeting to join time and quality to be independent of other processes running on your PC.
  • You want to effortlessly be able to whiteboard or annotate on shared content.
  • You ideally want all of the above without cluttering your desk.
  • If you are an IT-administrator that cares about the experience you want to deliver a prescriptive solution that does not leave the above variables to the individual employee.
A personal desk before (left) and after (right) deploying the Cisco Webex Desk Pro
A personal desk before (left) and after (right) deploying the Cisco Webex Desk Pro

Taking it to the Next Level

It is very encouraging to see that a growing share of our customers is realizing the power of showing up well in meetings. The DX80, years after it was first released, is tracking towards its strongest quarter ever. At the same time I am extremely excited that our new desktop flagship, the Red Dot Award-winning Webex Desk Pro is now shipping, much anticipated by executives and knowledge workers around the world who require the highest quality collaboration experience. One of our early testers, digital workplace guru Nathan Coutinho recently summed it up for us “If you are looking to deploy the best desktop video experience on the planet – this is the device you want”

We no longer live in a world of “work-life-balance” but one that is blended.A world in which where you work matters less and focus is put on how you work. In Cisco, this has already been my reality for ten years. Trust me – you want one of those devices 😉

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