Cisco Buys AppDynamics, Reveals Spark Board For Virtual Meetings

Intros new Spark Board for collobrative meetings, as it spends heavily to acquire application monitoring firm

Cisco is touting the end to “miserable meetings” with the launch of an all-in-one Cloud-based meeting room product called the Spark Board.

The Cisco Spark Board is a television-like device that acts as a digital whiteboard, wireless presentation display, and video conferencing tool. Cisco is also launching ‘Spark Meetings’,which combines elements from Cisco WebEx, in that it allows video calling with screen sharing.

And on top of that, Cisco also said it intents to acquire San Francisco-based AppDynamics for approximately $3.7 billion (£2.9bn) in cash.

Cisco Spark Board 1

Spark Board

Cisco seems to be aggressively targetting the collaborative meeting sector with its affordable Spark Board.

The 55 inch Spark Board is priced at just $4,990 (£3,967), with a monthly subscription costing $199 (£158), which covers the cloud service, help desk and software upgrades. A 70-inch version will be made available later in the year for $9,990 (£7,943).

In comparison prices for Microsoft’s Surface Hub, which was designed to undercut rival conferencing solutions, starts at around $9,000 (£7,156).

Google’s own smart whiteboard, the Jamboard, will be available later this year for approximately $6,000 (£4,770) or less.

Cisco says the Spark Board is designed to end miserable meetings and the need for dongles, wires and outdated hardware. The cloud-powered all-in-one Spark Board is designed to be easy to use, comprehensive and priced affordably, with the ability to connect physical rooms to virtual spaces.

Essentially it offers a wireless presentation device that recognises and greets the user as he or she approaches it, without the need for Bluetooth or special Wi-Fi or network connection, or indeed a remote control. Instead, the device is controlled via a laptop, Mac, tablet, or mobile phone.

It offers an interactive digital whiteboard that everyone can edit, share and copy. This allows offsite attendees to use a mobile phone to make their inputs, as long as they have the Cisco Spark app.

Cisco Spark Board 2

Meeting notes, diagrams, drawings and other data is automatically saved, and if the meeting takes a break, it restores the whiteboard so attendees can pick up where they left off.

It also includes the ability to carry out video calls while using the whiteboard, and it is helped by the fact that it comes with “theatre-quality” audio and video capabilities thanks to its 4K camera, and powerful microphone array and VoiceTrack technology.

The other element to this interactive whiteboarding device is Cisco Spark Meetings, which is claimed to be the Cisco Spark Board in the user’s pocket. This means that even if one user does not have a Cisco Spark Board, they can still whiteboard via the Cisco Spark apps.

Meetings can be scheduled, invites sent, teams alerted, and messages sent.

“Our philosophy is the best meeting is no meeting at all,” said Rowan Trollope, the SVP and GM of the IoT and Applications Group at Cisco. “We’ve shown that people who use Cisco Spark have fewer meetings – and when they do meet, it’s better. You can’t schedule innovation. It happens on its own schedule. Cisco Spark – and now the Cisco Spark Board – are all about giving you the tools to make that magic happen.”

AppDynamics Acquisition

Meanwhile Cisco also announced its intent to acquire AppDynamics, as that firm’s cloud application and business monitoring platform enables large organisations to improve application and business performance.

There is no word on any redundancies as part of the deal, and AppDynamics will continue to be a led by CEO David Wadhwani as a new software business unit in Cisco’s IoT and Applications business.

“Applications have become the lifeblood of a company’s success,” said Rowan Trollope, Cisco senior VP and general manager of Cisco’s Internet of Things and Applications Business Group.  “Keeping those apps running and performing well has never been more important.”

“Unfortunately, that job has only gotten harder, as IT departments and developers struggle with a tangled web of disconnected, complex data that’s hard to understand,” said Trollope. “The combination of Cisco and AppDynamics will allow us to provide end to end visibility and intelligence from the network through to the application; which, combined with security and scale, and help IT to drive a new level of business results.”

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