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May 09, 2014

Spring Roll: Cisco's New Prototype Video Conferencing System

By Steve Anderson
Contributing TMCnet Writer

A spring roll is a tasty delicacy found at many Chinese restaurants, among other places. But in this case, Spring Roll is also the code name for a powerful new prototype video conferencing system from Cisco. The Silicon Valley Business Journal recently took a look at the Spring Roll system, and what it found in the process of that look was a powerful new system that could rival just about anything out there.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal's reports suggest that the Spring Roll system is set to be more of a consumer-facing premise, offering up Cisco (News - Alert)'s breed of highly-capable video conferencing to regular consumers as opposed to the previous target of networks and larger business operations. The collaboration division of Cisco—the division that brings out the video conferencing tools like the hardware that goes into conference rooms or the simpler Skype (News - Alert) competitor known as WebEx—has reportedly been looking to make its products sleeker and easier to use, while at the same time lowering the prices to broaden the overall market appeal. Spring Roll is part of this picture, a sleeker, more unique approach to video conferencing that's got some broad-market appeal as well.

Spring Roll reportedly starts with a single video wall monitor, as opposed to a bank of smaller monitors. While that gives it a unique look and more overall viewing space from a smaller overall footprint—more viewing space in a smaller physical space—it doesn't just stop at looks. The Spring Roll system also boasts touchscreen controls that allow the system to show pictures, or even allow for full whiteboard-style operation in a remote setting. When two Spring Rolls—actually the total number of Spring Rolls in existence so far, based on reports—are working together, the result is said to feel as if the user were actually in the room with the contact on the other end.

With that touchscreen capability, meanwhile, comes the potential for an app base to spring up. Since the whole thing is driven by that touchscreen—which in turn reportedly feels very “Apple (News - Alert)-like”--it becomes wholly possible to bring apps into that touchscreen system which can further drive capability in terms of collaboration and beyond. Reports suggest that Cisco will be ready to demonstrate the Spring Roll system later this month when the Cisco Live conference gets started in earnest.

On a certain level, this makes some sense. While the curved screens and such likely won't make this a fixture in homes, smaller businesses might be better able to get in on the action with Spring Roll than with other room-based conferencing systems. But by like token, there are already a host of options geared toward smaller-scale video conferencing systems. Thanks to things like Web-based real time communications (WebRTC) and the like, we have systems that can be hooked to one basic PC, or even run from tablets, to provide video conferencing, and provide it at such a price point that most any business—or even regular consumers—can get in on the action. Spring Roll will thus have to work hard to prove its value in the field.

While Spring Roll certainly seems to have the edge in the sheer “wow factor” department, and will only increase it when the apps start appearing, the overall market here looks a bit shaky. Only time will tell just how well Spring Roll does in the overall field—it likely won't be released for some time—but it's likely to do pretty well overall thanks to its impressive new developments.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson


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