The content and speakers were equally good yesterday, and the big picture themes continued along the lines of collaboration being "the investment of the decade". It may be a bit early to make that claim, but I think it holds up pretty well for both parties - Cisco and IT managers. We saw lots of validation that Cisco is betting heavily on collaboration, and considering how nicely they've bounced back from earlier this year, the sharpened focus seems to be working.
Early in the day, we heard a lot about their architectural approach to collaboration and how this allows IT to deliver scalable tools, which in turn provides an easy to use end user experience that helps them work smarter. The messaging and demos were very effective for two audiences - IT and end users. I found this to be a pretty complete vision, as they make the case for a network-centric approach along with a people-centric approach to collaboration.
Delivering on both ends should put - and keep - Cisco at the forefront of the ever-expanding collaboration space. A lot of what they're doing - especially around Quad and Social Miner - is still ahead of the business market, but I don't see any other vendors with such a strong focus on both aspects of collaboration. Their traditional competitors are more telecom-centric than network-centric, and don't have the range of endpoints that enable collaboration across such a wide range of scenarios.
I'll expand on these ideas in future posts, but for now I just wanted to say that Cisco's collaboration story is getting stronger with each iteration, and they pretty much have things right now for making it the gold standard for others to follow.
Unified Conferencing demo showing solid interop across many endpoints - PC, Mac, Cius, TelePresence - on a hosted basis. Makes a strong case for virtualization that's scalable, flexible and more economical than premise-based solutions.
Executive Q&A session
For most of us, this was probably the highlight of the summit. In the afternoon, we had a site visit to the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami. As we learned, this is a very upscale brand within the Marriott hotel family, and is totally built out with end-to-end Cisco everywhere. It's a fantastic showcase for Cisco in the hospitality sector, but more importantly for all the cool things that make the guest experience really special. We got a walk through the property and saw lots of examples, and here are just a few.
How's this for fun? TV screen embedded in the bathroom mirror. Even better were the mobile phones in the rooms. The idea is for you to use them anywhere in the hotel, plus they double as walkie-talkies. Again, another convenience element that speaks to how people like to relax - remember, collaboration is social too!
This is a full size venue for events - see that huge multi-panel video screen - guess you can figure where that came from. Aside from concerts here, this is a full size hardwood court which NBA teams can use as a practice facility. The Heat play very close by, so it's great hook to get NBA teams to stay at the hotel where they practice in private and then just walk over to the arena.
Here's my favorite - the virtual concierge. They're still experimenting with it, but the idea is you can start a TelePresence session - see the Cisco IP phone in the lower left corner? - and speak with someone just as you would with a concierge face-to-face. Pretty handy when the lineup at the desk is too long, and if you're comfortable using video. Of course, when it's not in use, it makes for a fabulous HD billboard to tell you just how fabulous this place really is.
So, you just might be wondering, who is that agent you'd be speaking with for some virtual assistance on getting directions for your night out? Glad you asked.
Well, if you turn around, you see this lovely wall in the lobby. Well, he/she is behind that wall in their contact center. How Wizard of Oz is that? Am sure a bunch of things come to mind here, and they're probably all true. Look, it's early days for high-touch consumer collaboration, but you have to give both the Marquis and Cisco kudos for aiming high here. In time, they'll make it more consumer-friendly, and from there, things should start getting really interesting. It really is a cool experience, and once people get a taste of that, you'll believe more in Cisco's mantra of using technology and networks to transform our lives, both at work and at play.