May 8, 2018
What’s in a name? Well, brand recognition, loyalty, equity – just for starters. Which is why it’s interesting that Cisco, who bought Webex in 2007 and changed the name to Cisco Spark, is now coming full circle and rebranding back to Webex. With a twist. Last month, Cisco announced the move, but the strategy is about more than just a name change. Added functionality now simplifies and optimizes the user experience.
Let’s review what the hubbub is about.
Introducing Webex Teams
According to Cisco, “more than six billion meeting minutes happen in Cisco Webex every month.” The recent move combines the meeting capabilities of Webex with the team collaboration tools of Spark – like persistent messaging, whiteboarding, file sharing and guest access –to name a few. The combined worlds, Webex + Spark = Webex Teams rivals Microsoft’s Office 365 and Microsoft Teams.
So What’s New?
Cisco has spent considerable time updating the Webex solution. A “video first” functionality has been added that prompts…and continues to prompt (i.e., encourage) users to turn on the camera feature to make interactions feel more personal. Additionally, Webex now includes high resolution videos of meeting participants to help build connections, regardless of location. This capability will work on all devices, whether someone is using a laptop or a mobile device. Cisco’s objective is to turn Webex into a video-focused platform. The Teams portion – which is the collaboration and messaging capability – can be used inside the Webex platform as an add-on.
Cisco also introduced Webex Share, a new low-cost device that provides a “super-simple way for teams to share content on the big screen,” in any space. This allows users to use any screen or TV for their presentations, slides, file shares, etc. Since many meeting spaces have TVs, the new Share capability enables teams to use unused screens as powerful presentation and meeting tools. A palm-sized adapter is plugged into the back of a TV and pairs with a laptop or mobile device to instantly share files to the screen. The device is expected to be available in late 2018.
The Shift to Artificial Intelligence
Last year, Cisco introduced AI powered Spark Assistant to help change the way we schedule and hold meetings. The functionality began with some simple commands, like “Hey Spark, join the meeting,” or “Hey Spark, I want to start the meeting.” New updates help leverage the technologies from Cisco’s acquisition of MindMeld. AI capabilities include:
- Wider Availability: Cisco wants to incorporate AI into every conversation, meeting, call – basically every interaction we have. Webex Assistant (formerly Cisco Spark Assistant) is being added into all cloud-connected Webex Room Kit and Room Services devices.
- Intelligent Noise Suppression: The Webex Assistant leverages AI to recognize when a distracting noise is being transmitted in a meeting. For instance, people chatting in the background, a dog barking, road noise from a mobile phone – these distractions are identified and the volume of the source lowered automatically. At the same time, AI recognizes the source that is talking and automatically adjusts the volume so the person can be heard. This is a pretty cool feature!
Cisco is continuously exploring other AI capabilities, so it will be interesting to see how Webex Teams grows in the future.
More Integrations and Better Pricing
It’s expected Webex will soon work seamlessly with tools from Google, Microsoft and Slack. “It’s important our customers have choices,” Cisco announced in its April press release. Cisco’s goal is to give users the freedom to choose whatever tools are right for them. More integrations are better for everyone.
Additionally, Cisco is simplifying their pricing structure for Webex. They now offer a “Cisco Collaboration Flex Plan” that allows organizations to pay a monthly subscription fee only for each active user, versus every user. That’s huge!
Don’t Mess with a Good Thing
The shift from Cisco Spark to Webex Teams shows just how strong brand equity in the Webex name remains – even after the identify change in 2007. Strong enough to shift the Cisco strategy. Analysts agree that Cisco is turning focus away from chat solutions like Slack and more toward big platform players like Microsoft (which has Skype 4 Biz for meetings and Microsoft Teams for collaboration, which is included in the Office 365 platform).
In many respects, Cisco’s move was necessary in order to compete with the big platform players. So far, the market has responded positively to the overall improvements in capabilities. As far as the name change, let’s just hope this is the last name change for Webex. Like the saying goes, “don’t mess with a good thing.” In this case, that good thing was a name that people recognized and trusted.
For Additional Information
Mindsight, an IT Services Provider and Consultancy, has been a Cisco Gold and Master Collaboration Partner for many years and works with clients to identify the right collaboration solutions for their environments. We’ve helped hundreds of clients over the last 14 years achieve their IT objectives. With our Collaboration Roadmap, Mindsight can provide strategic recommendations for improving the way your company collaborates, engages, interacts, and works.
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