Cisco unwraps collaboration whiteboard solution Spark Board

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Cisco unwraps collaboration whiteboard solution Spark Board

Cisco has taken the wraps off Spark Board, a collaboration offering that integrates 4K ultra-high-definition cameras, microphones, audio with voice-tracking technology and Spark APIs.

Spark Board is an interactive whiteboard with a 55-inch touch screen with messaging, conferencing and telepresence capabilities, with a price tag of US$4990 and a US$199 monthly software subscription model.

The product will automatically connect to any laptop, PC, Mac or mobile device with no wi-fi, network connection or Bluetooth required, using instead what Cisco calls "new ultrasound wireless pairing." No remote controls are needed and the interactive whiteboard feature, which includes a drawing pen, can be accessed simultaneously by anyone in the virtual room at any time.

Cisco also launched an application suite, dubbed Spark Meetings, which enables users to interact with the Spark Board on their mobile devices.

"It's almost like the Spark Board in your pocket," said Jens Meggers, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Cloud Collaboration Technology Group, in an interview with CRN USA.

The offering combines all of the technologies needed for collaboration into one single product, according to Meggers, solving the global issue of organisations having to bring together equipment from multiple vendors, an often-complex undertaking.

"It's going to be a big game-changer because customers tell us, 'We want simplicity - we no longer want to cobble together our collaboration solutions,'" said Meggers.

"When you look at meeting rooms, they are very complex. You might have a projector on the ceiling, a screen, a separate video system in the room, you have whiteboards, on the table are telephones, microphones that come from the video system, and in almost all cases people have a remote control – with Spark Board we're going to change it entirely," he said. "This is a device that does all of that in one device and replaces all the old physical devices."

Approximately 85 percent of meeting rooms are not yet technology-enabled, opening the door to new markets and recurring revenue opportunities for partners, Meggers told CRN USA.

The US$4990 price tag and US$199 subscription services fee is aimed at quickly driving Spark Board adoption into as many businesses and conference rooms possible, Meggers said.

"We want to get this into as many rooms and customers as possible," he said. "We know Spark Board is going to be breakthrough – that's why we came out with very aggressive pricing."

On the channel front, Spark Board will drive recurring revenue through Cisco's subscription-based Cisco Spark Flex licensing model that lets organisations choose a mix of on-premise and cloud-based services they can change at any time without additional costs, according to Gary Wolfson, global director of Cisco's Collaboration and Digital Solutions Group.

"There's a great opportunity through adoption services and life cycle for partners to monetise the platform and to enrich the relationship with their customer accounts. Adoption services really are the keys to engaging the line of business and opening up new value streams for our partners with the customer," said Wolfson.

Cisco also is opening up its Spark APIs and Cisco Spark Depot for partners to build customisable solutions for Spark Board customers.

"This platform is highly extensible. That opens up a world of opportunity to develop applications leveraging the APIs we expose to create differentiation and real sticky value with customers," said Wolfson. "This product scales from small to large, so it opens up an amazing opportunity for our partners to hit new market segments."

Cisco already has created online training videos for partners to learn about the new product. Due to Spark Board’s simplicity and plug-and-play ability, Cisco said an entire organisation can get up to speed quickly.

"The training effort is far simpler than anything we've ever experienced with our partners," said Cisco’s Wolfson.

Cisco said it plans to launch a 70-inch touch-screen version of Spark Board later this year.

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