Cisco's Chambers pushes collaboration, video

Cisco CEO John Chambers in his Interop keynote pushes multiple forms of communications on a single IP network.

Collaboration is the key to enterprises both moving quickly and dealing with the demands of globalization, Cisco President and CEO John Chambers told attendees Tuesday at the Interop trade show in Las Vegas.

Cisco, like other networking vendors, is pushing new systems that combine multiple forms of communication on a single IP network. That approach, including presence information that shows how a contact wants to be reached at the moment, can help an enterprise's departments work together, he said.

"Collaboration isn't about data or video or voice or mobility, it's about how you combine that experience," Chambers said. It will change how enterprises deal with customers and partners and even level the playing field among companies and countries, he said.

The ultimate sales pitch of the keynote, which was free of any major new details on the company's IP communications product lineup, was a sneak preview of what Chambers said would be talking about a year from now: Telepresence. Cisco is working on an enterprise videoconferencing system that will use "life-size" high-definition video and directional sound that makes voices seem to come from where a user is located at a remote site, a company executive said in March at the Cisco Partner Summit. Cisco expects to announce the system later this year and start shipping it in about a year, that executive said.

Chambers gave a few more details. Users will be able to start up a videoconference with "two clicks" using the new technology, and speakers won't have to be followed around with a camera, he said. Though videoconferencing has been hyped before as a way to cut down on travel, Chambers believes the easier-to-use system will help ease that executive headache.

Cisco's push on collaboration is part of a vision of all applications becoming accessible on all devices at all times, through virtualization of storage, applications and processing.

One IT manager in the audience was more cautious. Because all budgets are limited and different departments all make separate demands, the collaboration tools Cisco and others are pushing are likely to come into place one piece at a time, said Mike Mahoney, an IT manager at Xerox in Stamford, Conn.

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