Cisco converges Spark and Webex; enhances new platform with machine learning

Cisco is on a path towards simplification and its collaboration tools are its most recent target.

The company has converged its cloud-based team workspace suite, Cisco Spark, with its online video meetings and conference call platform Cisco Webex under the Webex brand name at its Partner Connection Week 2018 (PCW 2018) in Nassau, Bahamas, from Apr. 17-19. What was formerly Spark will now be called Webex Teams, while Webex Meetings will continue to handle all the conference calls.

Webex Meetings is now a video-first platform, and Cisco says users will be strongly encouraged to turn on their cameras. The new Webex will come in the form of an update in the next few months, with no extra effort needed from users.

The new Webex Teams will integrate seamlessly into Meetings and the rest of Cisco’s collaboration suite, and gives users “a much richer set of tools – including whiteboarding, persistent messaging, simple guest access, content sharing, and integrated tools – to support teams both during and after the meeting,” according to the company in an Apr. 18 press release. Users just need to download the Teams extension to start using the tool.

“Webex is the most trusted brand in the industry for meetings and collaboration; more than six billion meeting minutes happen on Webex every month,” Nirav Sheth, vice president of solutions, architectures and engineering of Cisco’s global partner organization, says during his day two keynote at PCW 2018. “We’re taking all the best capabilities from Spark and Webex and unifying it into this single experience. It will be one whole cloud platform optimized for video that can be accessed through Cisco’s Collaboration Suite on any kind of device. If you’re an existing customer, the beauty of software-as-a-service is that everything will update for you on its own.”

Incorporating AI into collaboration

Cisco is going all-in on artificial intelligence (AI) and is using such capabilities to make meetings better. Webex Assistant (formerly Cisco Spark Assistant) will be available on more devices and with more functionality. It will help suppress disruptive noises, like a loud typer, shuffling papers, or side conversations, in all Webex meetings without muffling the volume whenever a user wants to make a comment.

“Everything we do is designed with people in mind – to help them work, collaborate, and create together. That’s why we have invested so much in Webex,” says Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of the applications group at Cisco. “Our vision is to bring this amazing experience to a billion users and conference rooms all around the world.”

Cisco’s new branding extends to devices

The new branding also extends to Cisco’s devices, such as its Spark Board – which now becomes the Cisco Webex Board.

Continuing with devices, Cisco has also launched Webex Share, an easy-to-set-up, low-cost adaptor that can be plugged into any TV and allows any Webex tool to be shared on the big screen. This will be available towards to end of 2018.

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Mandy Kovacs
Mandy Kovacs
Mandy is a lineup editor at CTV News. A former staffer at IT World Canada, she's now contributing as a part-time podcast host on Hashtag Trending. She is a Carleton University journalism graduate with extensive experience in the B2B market. When not writing about tech, you can find her active on Twitter following political news and sports, and preparing for her future as a cat lady.

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