By Corey Moss

If you haven’t already seen the news, here it is on ZDNet Cisco folds Spark into Webex as Webex Teams.

And here’s what you need to know, from Cisco, about Cisco’s new Webex.

What’s more, UC Today (in a breaking news edition to introduce Webex Teams) asked the question Out Loud: Why have Cisco Scrapped Spark for Webex Teams?

Here’s the first paragraph:

Big news came out of Phoenix, Arizona, where Cisco announced that Spark was being rebranded. Their collaboration platform had failed to gather enough notoriety in the industry so Cisco intend to capitalise on the Webex brand by renaming Spark, Webex Teams. Out Loud hear from an industry expert and Cisco partner who has more information on the reasons behind the changes and what this means for the future of Cisco collaboration.

(Note: a podcast accompanies the article).

Failed. Yes, I (like I’m sure many others) called that one. I’ll elaborate shortly.

Spark was introduced at Enterprise Connect 2015 to much fanfare (I was there), an application originally introduced under the name “Project Squared” at Cisco’s Collaboration Summit in November 2014. Another “collaboration tool.” Below is Cisco’s Rowan Trollope (now SVP & GM – Internet of Things (IoT) and Applications Division) introducing Spark during his keynote speech at EC15.

Rowan Trollope EC 2015 keynote.jpg

The presentation began with a demo, along with a “no smoke and mirrors” proviso from Trollope, where it was stated that Project Squared users would automatically be able to upgrade to Spark.

rowan phone spark.png

Image of Spark on Trollope’s phone in EC15 keynote session 

Trollope pointed out how his e-mail usage had truly diminished since using Project Squared, and in fact in future Spark presentations this became a central theme in terms of the real benefit to Spark usage as it continued to diminish (to the tune of over 70% I believe). And really, who doesn’t want to get off of their e-mail while using a simple to use intuitive enterprise level app?

Enter the already established challenger – that being Slack. Bucking up against a widely used already popular application like Slack meant a true uphill climb, even with heavy claims by Cisco that Spark was made for the enterprise, while Slack was not.

In reality though, Slack was the slam dunk while Cisco had miles to go with Spark to compete. Think about it in this way – if Slack was the not-ready-for-enterprise application Cisco claimed it to be, the enterprise was still using Skype – not Skype for Business which replaced Microsoft Lync in 2015 – on a wide-scale basis, no matter how much those in the know (myself included) pounded into the end user’s heads that it was not an enterprise-grade application, feature, security-wise and more (I happened to be a strict Zoom user at the time and still am).

Here’s a case in point to my “failure” discussion – in mid-2016, I visited a major worldwide AV and collaboration solutions integrator’s local office in northern VA for a vendor day, where numerous manufacturers lined up tables, and also exhibited products and solutions in conference rooms. Polycom sales people gathered with attendees in a mid-sized conference room to demonstrate their latest solutions – and the room was packed. The medium sized room that the Cisco people were using to demonstrate Spark was so sparsely populated with attendees, I had to look around a couple of times to make sure of what I was seeing. Maybe because it was a bit later in the day? Then again, it looked pretty much like a signal to me, being involved in the UC/videoconferencing and collaboration space for as along as I had been, that this was for a reason.

Then, in early 2017, with much fanfare (and why not for another interactive display board) the Spark Board was introduced. And what a nicely crafted advertising video. Well, you’ll see.

Spark, Spark Board – high level Cisco team collaboration strategy for the enterprise complete, right?

CRN even wrote 12 Reasons Why Cisco’s Spark Board Is Its Coolest Product Ever. Ah, cool – somewhat eliciting CES, but OK.

And then comes Spark VR…

Meeting in the virtual world – a corporate experimentation and design experience, new meeting experiences with headsets. I’m actually still waiting to see executives in headsets. But hey, what a demo.

The Spark Board did win the Best of Enterprise Connect 2017 award – so with all of this going for Spark, and the Spark Board, and VR, you must think Cisco had a winner — and Slack would be far in the rear view very soon afterward – right?

Well, that’s not before you consider what the team chat atmosphere looks like now in 2018. Zapier, a web-based service that allows end users to integrate the web applications they use, broke down the 13 best team chat apps as follows (April, 2018):

That’s right – Slack rated best for a chat powered workplace while Spark is rated for mocking up ideas in chat. To add in, Microsoft Teams rated for discussions about documents and meetings – something that every enterprise end user needs.

If you’ve noticed some of those Spark people leaving the Cisco roost lately, this could possible be the reason why, though I can only surmise at the moment – but this all does sound interesting, doesn’t it? Those who left Cisco, return to Cisco to be a part of the Spark team, only to leave again. This has already got to be sort of head spinning for those Spark – now Webex Teams  – end users, along with the general UC public, I can only imagine.

Finally, from that UC Today podcast – in a conversation concerning Rowan Trollope’s keynote, Spark, getting Spark to work with Webex, convergence, brand awareness, re-branding, confusion, (I know I’m confused):

“What would you do if we (Cisco) got rid of the brand Webex? There was uproar in the room!”

Webex is your Kleenex? Peddling the Spark brand while Webex is the known brand? Pride aside, egos aside?

Confusion?

Good luck Cisco.

Header image: CC0 Creative Commons via pixabay

Me at Barco

With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, The Collaboration Factor and Convergent Tech Talk. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers. Find him talking about a whole lot of things, tech and otherwise. On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/mosscorey/.