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Cisco: We know what you all want – a $10,000 70in whiteboard with a $190/mo cloud sub

Of course, of course it has a cloud subscription

By Shaun Nichols, 25 Jan 2017

Cisco is kicking out a new set of screens and conferencing software aimed at overhauling its video conferencing and collaboration lines.

Switchzilla says its Spark Board screens will lower the financial and technical requirements for companies that want to conduct meetings with remote workers and make it easier for people in the room to share information.

The Spark Board is a 55- or 70-inch LCD touchscreen device that sports a 4K camera and 12 microphones to pick up audio from around the room. The screen can connect with WebEx as well as a Cisco cloud service, which will provide the messaging, meeting and VoIP calling service.

The board links up with Spark, the collaboration service Cisco has been pushing since late 2015. Spark offers apps for Windows and macOS as well as mobile devices.

The idea, says Cisco, is to combine the touch-screen whiteboard with the videoconferencing and cloud collaboration service, giving companies an easy way to both conduct meetings and share the whiteboard notes and materials to their PCs and mobile devices.

"Our philosophy is the best meeting is no meeting at all," gushed Rowan Trollope, senior VP and general manager of Cisco's IoT and Applications Group. "We've shown that people who use Cisco Spark have fewer meetings – and when they do meet, it's better."

While cheaper than a full telepresence installation, the Spark setup will still cost companies a decent chunk of the budget. The 55-inch board is $4,990 and the 70-inch model $9,990. Additionally, companies will need to pony up $199 per month for a subscription to the cloud service.

That cost could still be high enough to dissuade companies that could otherwise budget a few thousand dollars to simply fly the remote employees onsite and put them up for meetings as needed.

Cisco says the 55-inch screen will be hitting the market later this month, while the 70-inch model is due to land in a less-specific time frame later this year.

The boards come into an increasingly crowded market for meeting and collaboration tools. Cisco will be competing with Google's Jamboard tablet and Microsoft's massive Surface Hub. ®

Bootnote

In a breathless note ahead of the cyber-whiteboard's launch on Tuesday, a PR for Cisco gushed: "Cisco will be hosting a first-of-its-kind launch event at the San Francisco Masonic to an invitation-only audience of 1,000+ VIP guests, partners and customers, and streaming the keynote live.

"You may recently have seen Surface Hub from Microsoft and Jamboard from Google. At first blush Cisco's upcoming hardware product will seem to be in the same space but in reality, it's an entirely different approach to how teams collaborate and get work done."

And so on and so forth. The tech press's reaction was predictable.

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