Cisco Systems is working to innovate its video conferencing platform, Webex, to make virtual participation in an in-person meeting a more productive experience, CEO Chuck Robbins told CNBC on Wednesday.
Webex and competing offerings from Zoom and Microsoft have seen an increase in user growth during the coronavirus pandemic, as companies were forced to switch to remote work and business travel dropped dramatically.
In an interview on “Squawk on the Street,” Robbins said he envisions a hybrid model in the future, with a return to the office accompanied by more flexibility around remote working than before the pandemic.
“In the future world, we are going to have people sitting in conference rooms and we are going to have people at home,” Robbins said, in response to a question from CNBC’s David Faber about how video conferencing will be different in five years. .
“You know what it’s like historically to be a remote meeting attendee. It’s been terrible, so we’re working hard on a technology that gives the same experience to both of you, which comes first,” Robbins continued.
Over time, he said he expected further progress with Webex, which Cisco acquired in 2007.
“I think you will see real 3D experiences. It will be virtually in the room and our teams are doing a lot of work right now to build that next-generation technology,” said Robbins. “I think that’s what you will experience in a few years.”
Webex had 600 million users on average during the second fiscal quarter, Robbins said Tuesday during a conference call to discuss the company’s earnings report. That’s an increase from the 324 million users Webex saw in March when the Covid pandemic in the US began to accelerate, according to Reuters.
At the same time, Cisco is among the companies that could benefit from a more widespread return to the office because its network switches and Wi-Fi access points are used by businesses. Robbins said during the call with the analyst that some Cisco employees have expressed a desire to return to the office, or at least return to work remotely on their own terms.
Robbins said Cisco’s goal for Webex is to level the playing field during meetings when people have more flexibility regarding their location. “I think it will be less and less important if you are in the room and if you are at home,” he said. “We want to make you a productive member of the meeting, regardless of where you are.”
Shares of San Jose, California-based Cisco, one of 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, fell more than 4% on Wednesday as investors took in the continuing challenges in the company’s infrastructure platform business. company, its leading product segment.
– CNBC’s Jordan Novet contributed to this report.