First Cuts: Cisco Webex Powers Up Their AI Product Story
By Jim Lundy
Topic:Artificial Intelligence and Unified Communications and Collaboration, Intelligent Video Conferencing
Issue: How will AI offerings, including Generative AI, impact how people collaborate and communicate?
Cisco Webex Powers Up Its AI Product Story – Puts Others On Notice
Summary: Cisco announced a series of new products and services at its annual Webex One Conference in Anaheim California. They also announced the updated Intelligent Digital Assistant that will power all of the Collaboration and Contact Center offerings.
Event: On October 25th, Cisco announced their new AI-based product capabilities for its Webex Suite, Webex Contact Center and Collaboration hardware kits.
Analysis: Cisco put the rest of the UC&C market on notice that it is investing heavily in AI.
From innovation with a new AI Codec for audio, Super Resolution for video, and a new Video Compression that makes high resolution video be delivered over low bandwidth to security. They showed that it was accelerating it pace of innovation for Webex.
Cisco Has An AI Strategy
The key take away from Webex One is that Cisco is leading with AI across its Collaboration Software platform and now in its Webex hardware.
When Cisco announced its Webex Assistant nearly four years ago, many were shocked and surprised. They was ahead of its time. That was then and AI is now. (Note: Aragon Research now refers to Video Conferencing Category to Intelligent Video Conferencing).
Cisco had a strategy and they quietly made acquisitions including Voicea and Babble Labs that kind of went unnoticed by many. That investment and all of the new innovation was on display this week. Cisco Webex is in it to win with the productivity and automation benefits delivered via AI.
It was very clear that Cisco has doubled down on AI and it has a clear strategy for AI in its core platform and AI as part of the revamped Webex Intelligent Digital Assistant.
Meeting summaries that link to the actual part of the meeting with comments were implemented. Along with improved action items and chapterization of recordings are some of the new capabilities under the Intelligent Digital Assistant.
Webex AI Assistant Jumps Over to the Webex Contact Center
The Webex Intelligent Assistant will now work with the Webex Contact Center – so this is a reinforcement of Cisco’s focus outside of meetings.
Also, Cisco announced Customer Experience Basic, a collection of features that deliver call center-like functionality, which is seamlessly integrated into Webex Calling at no additional cost.
In addition to Webex Customer Experience Basic capabilities in the Webex Suite, the new Customer Experience Essentials package extends agent and supervisor functionality to customer-facing employees outside traditional contact centers for seamless access to customer experience tools across an entire organization.
For enterprises, having a Common Intelligent Assistant across UCC and Contact Center makes sense and to Aragon Research this is a strong move that we feel others will need to emulate.
Webex AI Assistant for Messages – Featuring Changing Tone
One of the fun demos presented by Cisco Webex General Manager, Javed Khan, was composing a message in Webex Messaging, followed by having the AI Assistant change tones to soften the message to make it more appealing to the reader. The demo resonated with attendees and there was lots of applause.
Cisco Leads in Collaboration Security and Data Sovereignty
Several years ago, Aragon Research published some important research on Security for Collaboration and Communications. Cisco was very focused on the core aspects of security and privacy then and this week they announced the ability to have Sovereign Capabilities to keep customer data in the hemisphere or country that they reside in.
While others in Cloud Computing have offered this, this is one of the key innovations that will drive adoption of Cisco Webex globally, given their strong focus on privacy and data sovereignty.
Customers were very happy to see Microsoft onstage when Snorre Kjesbu demonstrated the new Room Kits and devices that showed off eye popping video and sound.
The Cisco Collaboration devices offer broad interoperability across meeting platforms, and are now available with Microsoft Teams Rooms.
In fact, Microsoft’s VP of Microsoft Teams Calling and Devices, Ilya Bukshteyn, was on stage with Snorre. This new era of cooperation between Cisco and Microsoft, while overdue, means that customers win.
Aragon Research feels that collaboration is not a one product for all departments, so the new integration that was announced earlier this year is a hit. It also means that enterprises have plenty of options on how they enable conference rooms with innovative room kits. IT will be happy because Microsoft Teams is supported and so is Webex Meetings. It’s a win for the users is what this is all about.
Room Kit EDX with NVIDIA Inside
Part of the buzz at Webex One was the new Room kits, including Room Kit EQX, that features NVIDIA GPUs and the NVIDIA Jetson Edge AI Platform. Combined the Room Kit EQX offers highly enhanced sound and video and overall intelligence. The new Room Kit EQX does support Microsoft Teams Rooms.
One of the aspects of assistants powered by Generative AI is the conversational interface. Cisco demonstrated that an admin can now talk to the control hub (its admin console) and get answers instantly. This is real innovation and is something that does make enterprises blink and ask, “Hey, why are others not doing this?”
In fact, the Webex Control Hub can now interface with other Cisco products such as Thousand Eyes to provide insight into what might be going on in the Network that is affecting calling or meetings.
Cisco Enters the AI Race with Google and Microsoft for the Future of Work
While the initial war featured Microsoft versus Google, now Cisco is in the game for CoPilots with its game changing AI Assistant. Cisco is staying neutral in LLMs and it demonstrated it can use a number of them.
All said, for Collaboration the Webex Assistant is battle tested, it has been on the market for over three years. Google and Microsoft are only making their assistants (Microsoft 365 CoPilot and Google Workspace Duet) available now.
Prediction: By Year-end 2024, 40% of UC&C providers will offer Intelligent Digital Assistants (e.g. CoPilots) (0.8 Probability).
Aragon Research Advisory
- Intelligent Digital Assistants, also called CoPilots are now a must have for Collaboration, Communications and Contact Centers.
- Enterprises should ask their current UC&C and Intelligent Contact Center providers for Roadmaps about their use of AI in their products and services.
- Enterprises not using these type of Intelligent Digital Assistants/CoPilots should begin trust testing of them now.
At Webex One 2023 in Anaheim, Cisco made the complete pivot to Intelligent UC&C and Intelligent Contact Center. With its AI Assistant and new AI enabled devices, Cisco has put the rest of the Collaboration market on notice.
Related Aragon Research
- The Aragon Research Technology Arc™ for Artificial Intelligence, 2023
- General-Purpose AI Models and Copilot Solutions
- What is Generative Content?
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