- Cisco is pouring resources into augmented-reality-hologram tech for its Webex meeting software.
- The enterprise giant is betting the AR tech will gain traction as firms adopt metaverse-style work.
- It’s part of Webex’s strategy to regain market share, a key exec tells Insider.
The biggest players in tech are betting the metaverse will be a huge market this year — and Cisco wants a piece of the pie.
The metaverse, commonly viewed as tech that lets people interact with each other in 3D-rendered virtual worlds, may seem like an unlikely area of investment for Cisco, whose core business is networking hardware and software. But Cisco is betting that building out its own version of the metaverse can be a secret weapon for its Webex meeting tools as it seeks to regain market share by attracting new customers who want hyperrealistic videoconferencing for the workplace.
The $255 billion enterprise-technology giant is pouring money into new tech like augmented-reality holograms to allow for lifelike meetings and calls in a virtual setting, Jeetu Patel, the executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration at Cisco, told Insider.
It’s part of Cisco’s strategy to claw back customers to Webex after downloads dipped to 2.4 million in November, down from its peak of 12 million downloads in April 2020, according to research by Piper Sandler. Webex made up just over 3% of roughly 70 million app downloads across all communication software in November, compared with Zoom’s 28% share and a combined 16% share between Microsoft Teams and Skype.
“We’re starting to see new markets that nobody might have a solution in,” Patel said, adding that Cisco was “investing very heavily” in augmented and virtual reality to power Webex’s upcoming hologram feature.
Cisco plans to differentiate its approach to the metaverse from other hot endeavors with more true-to-life imagery, in contrast with Microsoft and Meta’s visions, which hinge on cartoon-style avatars that people can interact with for work or fun.
Its pitch to prospective customers is that life-size, photorealistic holograms rendered in 3D will enable meetings “where you can feel like you’re sitting across the table from someone having dinner, except that they’re 6,000 miles apart,” Patel said. Cisco isn’t the only company making holograms — several startups are building similar tech meant for the metaverse.
“There’s only two ways you can go: Either your experience gets meaningfully better, or it gets meaningfully worse. So there’s only two choices that you have: Keep innovating or atrophy,” Patel said.