This week at the 2018 Collaboration Summit Cisco announced the convergence of Cisco Spark and Webex to become Webex Teams. “Spark is now rebranded as Webex Teams—this will go into effect June 2018.” This means Webex Teams is now the primary Cisco brand for cloud-based modern team collaboration and meetings.
While on the surface it might appear as though this is a simple rebrand, Cisco showcased there is a lot more under the hood. The keynote speakers at the event revealed a number of new products and features to back it up. The end goal? To better connect co-workers, clients, and customers (and tackle Microsoft Teams and Slack head-on). Here's a look at what's new, what's different and what won't change.
What's New with Cisco Webex Teams
Cisco have a new AI voice assistant – to be honest I get excited about anything AI but to see it being rolled out for large B2B environments is a big deal. I can't wait to see it in action; there's only so many times you get a buzz out of getting Alexa to set a reminder. The Webex voice assistant will allow you to control dial-in, volume control, mute functions and more. Best of all; it's launching in May.
Share hardware device – this is something I can really get onboard with. The official line on it is: a palm-sized device that can plug into any TV or monitor to turn it into a wireless presentation screen via the Webex app.
Lastly the new Webex Teams functionality is now available to all 113M monthly Webex users.
What's Different with Webex Teams
From June, Spark meetings will be Webex meetings and they will have one set of features: roster, meeting controls, PSTN connectivity, etc. You will be able to join Spark meetings from the Webex app. Previously there was Spark app for Spark meeting and Webex app for the Webex meeting; now it's simplified to just one place. Jonathan Rosenberg's exact words are: “Spark Meetings are dead. Long live Webex meetings.”
Spark and Webex will join their meeting capabilities using the Webex IP network. The meetings servers will be in public cloud and Cisco data centers with the Webex backbone interconnecting them both. There are three advantages to this: customers will get better quality, lower latency and because the webex backbone was purpose built for video meetings – Spark customers should see a marked difference in video performance.
Spark Calling will now become Webex Calling, with PSTN dial-in/out powered by Broadsoft. You can expect this to expand in the future. Finally, Spark Boards and Room Kit will become… you guessed it: Webex Boards and Room Kits.
Spark's hybrid media service has also got a facelift in the form of Cisco Video Mesh. This service delivers hybrid video connections from premise and cloud connected video devices for Webex meetings.
What Won't Change with Webex Teams
Much of the underlying Webex infrastructure won't change. As indicated in the what's different section – it's mostly around what will be different for Spark, not necessarily Webex.
The Cisco Flex licensing plan enables per user pricing for cloud or premise solutions and this will still allow for use of cloud and/or premise collaboration and calling technology for users within the same organization.
Low brand awareness of Spark is touted as one of the big reasons for driving the change, understandably if there were very few people knowing or talking about Spark it's hard to compete against the media machines of Microsoft and the “cool” collaboration/UC disrupters Slack. Cisco needed to make a big change to gain attention. Zeus Kerravala goes into more detail on why he believes the change came about here. Leveraging the existing and well known Webex brand was a natural choice. All round this is a positive move for Cisco and as part of the Cisco Global Price List through the Cisco SolutionsPlus program we welcome this change.