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In the nearly 10 years since Cisco snatched up on-demand online meeting platform Webex, the San Jose company has become a veritable juggernaut in the videoconferencing space. More than 300 million customers tap its eponymous Cisco Collaboration suite every day and log more than 6 billion meeting minutes in Webex a month, and 1.5 million meetings rooms around the world have Cisco video devices.

But Cisco’s not resting on its laurels. Today it announced an improved Webex meeting scheduler, an improved on-premises service for enterprise customers, and new hardware platforms for boardrooms, meeting rooms, and casual workspaces.

First up’s a new way to join meetings. Instead of having to add dial-in information to a calendar invite manually, typing “@meet” (without quotes) now accomplishes the same thing — regardless of whether the Webex deployment is on-premises, in the cloud, or a mix of both.

“In a recent survey, we found that scheduling meetings is the second-biggest pain point for users,” wrote Sri Srinivasan, vice president and general team manager at Cisco’s collaboration group. “No more management portals or separate booking systems; users will now enjoy a simple to schedule meeting experience with the ability to join with the touch of one button.”

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Cisco Webex Edge

Cisco Webex Edge is a new service in three parts: Webex Edge Audio, Webex Edge Connect, and Webex Edge Video Mesh.

Webex Edge Audio lets businesses tap into the public switched telephone network (PSTN) for meetings, with the help of Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager, which automatically routes calls over voice over internet (VoIP), existing PSTN services, and other services available to it. Any meeting participant can join an audio conference without having to worry about dialing a dedicated VoIP line, and — as an added benefit — callbacks from mobile and home phones are natively supported. Communications Manager can intelligently route calls to desk phones.

“Unlike other solutions, you don’t need to spend on edge traversal licenses or third-party session border controllers,” Javed Khan, VP and general manager of cloud collaboration at Cisco, wrote in a blog post. “They connect to the Webex Cloud through Cisco Expressway without additional licenses … [which] provides great cost savings because it eliminates PSTN charges created by employees.”

Webex Edge Connect — a quality of service-enabled IP link from on-premises hardware to Cisco’s Webex backbone — provides a dedicated peering connection for meetings that Cisco claims isn’t subject to the same congestion, packet loss, jitter, and delay as standard lines. It joins Video Mesh (formerly Hybrid Media Service) — an on-premises videoconferencing solution Cisco introduced last year — as part of Webex Edge.

Webex Edge is included in Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan subscriptions. Peering agreements are an additional monthly charge.

New hardware

As for the new hardware, two new headsets join the Cisco 500 Series — the 561 and 562 — both designed to work with Cisco’s IP phones, Jabber, and Webex meetings and teams. But the headliner is Cisco Webex Room Kit Pro, which replaces the SX80.

Room Kit Pro boasts six video inputs, three outputs (two 4K at 60 frames per second and one 4K at 30 frames per second), and eight microphone inputs, plus firmware with artificial intelligence (AI) that intelligently adjusts the in-frame view, suppresses background noise, responds to voice commands, and even keeps track of the number of people in a room.

It’s not the only new hardware on tap. There’s the Cisco Webex Room 70 G2, an enhanced version of the existing Room 70 with Cisco’s Webex Codec Pro technology and the same AI features as the Room Kit Pro, and the Cisco Webex Room 55 Dual, which features two 55-inch screens, a built-in quad camera bar, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

All three — the Cisco Webex Room Kit Pro, Cisco Webex Room 70 G2, and the Room 55 Dual — will be available later this month.

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