By Corey Moss

Just call this the followup to my previous blog I probably could have predicted – just like I, and others, predicted the collapse of Cisco Spark. Oh not a collapse you say? Just folded conveniently into Webex?

Sure, that’s it.

Actually, predicting the Spark part – yes, the experience part, maybe not.

The Cisco Collaboration Summit took place April 18th and 19th in Phoenix, Arizona – described as an in-depth look at how business and industry leaders are transforming the workplace of the future.

Here is the ‘speakers’ description:

Join Rowan Trollope, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco’s Applications Group, and other featured speakers for an unforgettable experience, including executive forums, immersive sessions, a technology innovation showcase, and much more – all centered on radically reinventing the way we work.

OK, let’s stop there – radically reinventing the way we work. I believe it was, as detailed in my previous blog, at Enterprise Connect 2015 that Rowan Trollope was doing that exact same thing with the introduction of Cisco Spark replacing Project Squared which had significantly decreased Trollope’s reliance on e-mail (as detailed). Cisco was already taking aim at Slack, which rose with a bullet at the time being the #1 teamchat application. Bold, but hey they’re Cisco. Then of course in 2017 came the Spark Board (and then Spark VR for good measure – right, executives in headsets).

That story’s already been told, along with the Spark collapse.

Collapse you ask again? Stick around.

For those who had planned to attend the Summit, intending to hear all of the latest and greatest about the teamchat application that Trollope and others at Cisco lauded as the next big thing – that would make you forget about Slack and the rest (and Microsoft Teams wouldn’t stand a chance?) – there came that recently announced huge surprise, and even a bit of awkwardness too. For the analysts, those especially who had seen Spark as a revolutionary chat, collaboration and workflow triumph for Cisco (and were they ever in need of a triumph after the mass employee exodus, along with videoconferencing codecs falling to the wayside), some, if not most, probably had a “what to expect now” feeling concerning the new Webex Teams replacing that application they had gotten fully on board with. Then there were those, like myself, who weren’t very convinced that we’d ever get on board.

So you might expect a little (or a lot) of trepidation, and even a bit of snark about the whole thing, including if Cisco no longer has Spark, is it available? Actually, and here’s what could be a huge reveal of why Spark is no more for Cisco – it’s already in use for other products (non-collaboration that is) like cleaning solutions, smart water bottles, natural oils, just to name a few as Trollope readily pointed out. So maybe someone talks about Spark, meaning Cisco’s – and the other person says “I just bought one, it’s awesome!”

One?

OK so maybe that scenario is a bit far-fetched, but who knows? But could branding have been one of the reasons for the dump of the Spark brand? This I’d really like to know, however with the evidence at hand, could be. In this day and age, as we know, branding is one of the main keys to a company and/or product’s launch and success over time. As for re-branding in this case, you take a videoconferencing application like Webex, which continuously struggles to compete with others in the UC&C space, and attach Teams, where that’s already been attached to a Microsoft teamchat product – and you could have a strong issue there as well.

Going back to the Summit, I looked over the analyst agenda and customer tracks for any sessions directed toward Webex Teams and didn’t see anything specific to it, although it was discussed in one or more sessions. I did notice this though under analyst tracks – ‘Visit the Ford and Webex Car Experience.’ Ford and Webex, that must be an experience. Actually, here it is.

Cisco Webex and Ford
Part of an InfoGraphic from the Cisco blog

So I can join a Webex session from my Ford – use the steering-wheel buttons to join and control WebEx meetings and participate while behind the wheel. A list of upcoming meetings appears on the Ford SYNC 3 touchscreen (within driver’s line of sight). Join a meeting either by pressing the meeting on the touchscreen or using the voice command “Join WebEx Meeting.” Use your dashboard button controls to mute and unmute audio or leave the meeting.

OK, now this is interesting – this is the Webex experience that I could personally get into. There are a lot of things I need to do while behind the wheel (beyond phone calls that I do on bluetooth in my Ford Explorer with built-in SYNC), and having this convenience could be immeasurable. It is stated in the Cisco blog that this capability will extend to other car manufacturers that are adopting SmartDeviceLink, Ford’s open-source smartphone app interface software. Manufacturers in the consortium include Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, PSA, and Suzuki.

When talking about Webex and the Webex brand (remember the Kleenex reference from my previous blog), it’s something like this that truly extends the innovation and experience conversation, and not in adding Teams to Webex in the guise of Spark, now erased from the memory banks at Cisco after that huge launch in 2015 – yes just three years ago, accompanied by an interactive display – both re-wrapped and re-labeled. Spark VR is still Spark VR, I think? Then again what evidence is there at this point that VR will be a viable means of collaboration for executives anytime soon?

So… where Cisco has – let’s say – not succeeded with Spark, they have truly brought an experience for Webex with Ford, along with those other manufacturers that will adopt SmartDeviceLink.

Where Webex Teams is concerned, my ender of the previous blog still applies.

Good luck Cisco – although I’m sure there are other good things happening in your collaboration space… right?

Header image: 123rf royalty free

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/.