We just got back from Cisco’s Collaboration Summit 2018 in beautiful Phoenix Arizona, and well, there’s a lot of new and exciting news in the Cisco Collaboration story! First, a shout out to Cisco for putting together what was easily the best Cisco Conference we’ve been to, including numerous Cisco Lives. Sure, there was no concert or anything crazy like a typical Cisco Live experience, but it was intimate (about 1000 attendees) and a beautiful venue, and Cisco just went all out to make sure participants were comfortable, busy and extremely well-informed by the end of the conference.
So, what’s new? Well, it was only about 2 and a half years ago that Cisco released Cisco Spark and Spark Boards and Spark Room Kits. The entire approach was a bold one, being the first company to truly combine a “Team Messaging” application with video conferencing hardware, to truly “up the ante” as far as Meetings are concerned in video capable conference rooms. The fact that it was cloud hosted and does not require huge investments in local bridging hardware made it all that much better. The solution overall has been a huge step in the correct and new direction that no other vendor has been able to come close to. The problem from day one however, has always been with the branding and messaging story. It was very confusing trying to explain the nuanced differences between Cisco Spark Meetings, Cisco WebEx Meetings, and Cisco Jabber for that matter. Cisco did a lot to really try and push the Spark/WebEx story, but it simply was too confusing for too many clients out there.
All the while, Cisco was working on the back-end infrastructure, to deliver services from a common cloud platform and to truly combine the Spark and WebEx experiences. Now, the marketing and branding are catching up with the announcement that Cisco Spark will now be known as Cisco Webex Teams. Yes, the lowercase “e” is by design. In fact, all of the products will be taking on the Cisco Webex branding, which makes perfect sense, being the de-facto standard and market leader in web conferencing worldwide. Here is the new “Cisco Webex” portfolio:
So, the Cisco Spark “Team Messaging” app, now becomes “Webex Teams”. The Cisco Spark app will be replaced (not an upgrade) for all devices. (Desktop, Mac, iOS, Android, etc). The cloud Cisco Spark calling service, becomes “Webex Calling”. And the traditional Webex services of web conferencing is now “Webex Meetings”, and has a slick new app as well.
The entire approach is really all about “Teams” in the workplace. The strategy is to “Empower teams to perform at their best.” Providing a collaborative canvas that all team members can access, maximizing the potential of the cloud to do so, amplifying this by being able to integrate with current investments like video hardware and other cloud services (think Office365), and lastly, efficiency through intelligence, such as AI and upcoming VR technologies. Cisco is not shy about the fact they see Webex Teams as a better alternative to Microsoft Teams.
When combined with the Meetings capabilities, and the “Webex Devices”, specifically leveraging features such as “Proximity”, there’s no doubt these combinations give Cisco a marked advantage over using Microsoft Teams and the combination of several other 3rd party players to even come close to a comparable team Collaboration experience with video.
Ever being Cisco however, they are still embracing open standards and integration to those environments that still prefer Microsoft Teams. You can have a Microsoft Teams environment and leverage integration into Webex Meetings that allows for clients to still be able to access the superior web conferencing experience right from within the Microsoft Teams application. The commitment by Cisco to integrate so seamlessly into a competitor’s product is very refreshing.
The branding change is just part of the story, as Cisco also redesigned all versions of the traditional Meetings apps to be very video-centric, with all calls starting with huge video displays by design, and the ability to tile various video participants, providing a really awesome user experience. The ability to live within the Webex Teams app, or the Webex Meetings app, and still get similar user experiences is really nice as well.
In summary, we’re thrilled that at the conclusion of the Collaboration Summit, our concerns about the direction of Cisco Collaboration and recent trends we’ve seen in the market, were truly answered very convincingly. We’re now equipped with an awesome branding and strategy to take to the market, and more importantly the products have been completely updated to match. The entire “Teams” approach and the current state of the product set, is superior to any in the industry, and equipped and prepared for the future to face any challenges. To be balanced, there are still issues between the on-prem environments and user experiences and hybrid systems too, but Cisco is aware of these challenges and owning the responsibility to get them resolved. We’re delighted to hear this and now equipped to help our clients enjoy the new Cisco Webex experience right away.