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The Logitech UC Solution: A Perfect Bundle For A Cisco Jabber Workstation

January 17, 2013 | David S. Maldow, Esq.

LogitechThe PC based workstation is evolving rapidly in response to both technology changes, and workplace demands. One major factor in this evolution is the fact that today's PC isn't just for processing your workload, it is a communications hub. Collaboration peripherals, such as a webcam, headset, microphone, speakerphone, etc, are now typically included in a employee's desktop setup. We are even using the PC to make standard telephone calls. This leads to an obvious question... why do we still need a physical desktop phone? Up until now, the answer has been that sometimes it just seems easier to use the phone. For Cisco Jabber users, there may now be a new answer. We spoke with Eric Kintz (SVP and General Manager, Logitech for Business) to get the details on how 18 months of co-development with Cisco resulted in a keyboard that doubles as a full featured Cisco desktop phone for Cisco UC, Jabber and Webex users. The new keyboard comes bundled with an HD webcam and cordless mouse, comprising a reasonably priced package of peripherals at $270.

Why does the typical person still instinctively reach for the phone, rather than use PC based communications? There are a number of reasons, but the simplest explanation is that the phone is dead easy and instant. Making a videocall is pretty darn easy these days as well, but there is still a pain point in adoption due to the slight delay of pointing, clicking, opening your app, etc., compared to picking up your phone. Furthermore, the call experience itself can be slightly compromised by user interface issues. These aren't terrible problems, for example, it can just be a little quicker and easier to press a mute button on your phone than to find and click mute on a software UI, or perhaps it is a little easier to notice you have voicemail when your phone has a blinking red light. When you think about it, other than these minor inconveniences, if you can make calls with your PC and headset, there is no reason to give up space on your desk for a phone.

LogitechEric said that with this in mind, they studied the desktop phone, feature by feature, and made a list of the most important "one touch experiences" to port over to the desktop environment. The resulting list of features were then incorporated into the new UC Keyboard K725-C. Unfortunately for Logitech, adding new buttons and a small screen was only half the battle. We have all seen keyboards with fancy extra buttons that no one uses because they are too hard to configure. This keyboard had to work seamlessly with Cisco UC Call Manager and Jabber with no configuration, no drivers, and no software. Logitech just so happened to have the right team ready to take on this challenge due to their experience creating the extremely popular´┐ŻG-510 gaming keyboard, which also has an integrated LCD display, numerous special function buttons, and deep software integrations.

The result is that Cisco UC users now have all of the most important elements of the desktop phone experience when making PC audio or video calls on their desktop. You can see them all here (9 buttons and the LCD display), but let me take a minute to go over my favorites.

1. A lighted mute button. This isn't rocket science. I find myself unknowingly muted in video calls on a daily basis. The UI indicators aren't always obvious, especially when I have multiple windows open. Even worse, once I do realize that I am muted there is that awkward moment as I tab through windows to un-mute myself, while people wonder what happened to me.

2. Audio selection keys. Every try to switch from headphones to speakers, or vice versa, in the middle of a video call through the Windows audio settings menus? It can get ugly and we have all wound up tapping on various microphones to try and figure out what is live. A nice set of keys makes it easy to switch between headphones, speakers, or even a USB phone handset.

3. Call answer / hangup button. Ever say "goodbye" on a video call and then sit there with a strained smile as you click around trying to end the call? Another awkward moment averted with this keyboard.

4. The LCD display. Remember the days of answering the phone blindly without caller ID? How did we ever get any work done? The integrated LCD display shows caller ID whether it is an Cisco Call Manager routed phone call, or a Jabber video call.

A special mention should go to the lighted voicemail message button. Logging in to check if you have voicemail is clearly not ideal. A good UC system needs to actively let you know when you have messages. The lighted message indicator could have been a "dealbreaker" preventing people from giving up their physical phones if Logitech had failed to included it in this offering.

The bundle also includes a C920-C Webcam. I currently am using its sister, the C920 and it is an excellent webcam. It can support up to 1080p30, which is more than most VC clients support, and it does a great job handling various lighting conditions. The C920-C is specially optimized so that its internal H.264 encoding can be easily accepted by Jabber. That's right, even the webcam in this package is tailored specifically for the Cisco Jabber desktop environment (although the camera will obviously work with all video clients). One item that sets the C920-C aside from the C920 is the addition of a physical privacy shutter. Considering that many large Cisco deployments are Fortune 500 or government organizations with security concerns, the shutter is really a necessity, not a nicety.

A M525-C cordless mouse rounds out the peripheral package. If your organization is planning to set up new Cisco UC workstations, this package makes a lot of sense. At the price of a quality keyboard, webcam, and mouse, you get all that and avoid the cost of a physical desktop phone. This may not be the end all and be all of unified communications, but it is certainly a viable first step away from the old desktop phone as our communication evolution continues.

About the Author
David_Maldow, Esq.David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their telepresence, videoconferencing, and visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.

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