A Near Perfect Solution For Our New Work From Home Normal
Like a lot of you, I’m working from home and experiencing the wonders of back-to-back video conferencing. And I’m observing a ton of problems using a PC for this. You can be in the middle of watching a presentation when an inappropriate text message showed up on the presenter’s PC and is shared with everyone, which is always funny, but sometimes can land the speaker in a ton of trouble. IT likes to push down forced updates from time to time, and PCs still crash, mainly if they’ve been used to access ill-advised websites that automatically install malware. A virus scan, even in the background, can significantly degrade performance as can an automatic download of software for an update that might not occur until that night. Framerates drop, the audio feed goes sideways, and the speaker is embarrassed in front of their audience—and executives this happened to suddenly seem to think their IT folks are the problem that needs to be fixed.
No one needs that, and at CiscoLive, their big annual customer event, they showcased a piece of hardware called the Webex Desk Pro, which arguably is the most advanced AI-powered collaboration device for the desk.
Let’s talk about that this week.
Why A Dedicated Device?
If you are in the office or class, your connection to your co-workers, teacher, or speaker in a meeting is physical and reliable. It doesn’t matter what happens to your PC because the conversation, lesson, or speech is happening in person. But when you are remote and using your PC to listen, learn, or collaborate and the PC fails, you can’t even get help for the PC because it isn’t working anymore.
The way around this is to have a dedicated communication device, and, just like a phone, the communications part of the conversation is far more reliable. Not only that, but when you use your PC, your limited screen real-estate is often fully consumed by the meeting, making it far harder to take notes or collaboratively work on a project over the network.
With dedicated hardware, it just works, and any of your PC issues have no impact on the conversation. As a teacher, you remain in view of the student, and they stay in your view so you can better keep them from screwing around and can, much as you would in a classroom, better see they are paying attention, and they can see you watching them.
In short, the result is far closer to what you would have had been you in person, and it makes for a far more reliable and far richer experience.
The Cisco Webex Desk Pro
These issues are the problems that Cisco created its Webex Desk Pro to solve. It primarily just focuses on being a video phone, and, much like a phone, you can largely depend on it always working even if your PC isn’t. It can be deployed as part of Cisco’s DaaS (Device as a Service) offering reducing your capital expense exposure. On top of basic video conferencing, it can be a digital whiteboard for sharing. It uses Cisco’s new AI (artificial intelligence) digital assistant for things like real-time transcription, and it can be used as a monitor, keeping your desktop relatively uncluttered.
On this last, I’d suggest you use it as a second monitor so you can better use your PC for notes or for hosting collaborative projects between users. Designed specifically to be used in this new remote world we now live in; it may be one of the best ways to provide a far more similar experience (at least until we figure out mixed reality better) to what it was like working in the office.
One of the problems with being remote is that you don’t get the level of interaction you’d get in person. One of the causes of this is the use of PCs as the communication device because they aren’t as reliable as phones, and you often need to use them for other tasks while video conferencing. Besides, if the PC has a problem, you tend to either not be able to enter a meeting or are ejected from it, limiting your ability to ask for help or see the material you attended the meeting to see.
At CiscoLive this week, they showcased their new Webex Desk Pro, which may be the ideal solution to this problem and provide the closest thing to the videophone solution that we’ve been promised since the 1964 World’s Fair. It has taken an unbelievably long time to get here.