pressmaster - Fotolia

Cisco Spark to Webex Teams integration follows Microsoft's footsteps

The integration of Cisco Spark to Webex Teams is similar to Microsoft's move to compete against Slack team collaboration and Zoom meeting services, according to analysts.

Cisco's decision to converge Spark and its related devices into the Webex platform centralizes the vendor's collaboration strategy. But the integration of Cisco Spark to Webex Teams could cause confusion with Microsoft Teams, according to industry analysts.

Cisco said last week it will integrate Cisco Spark and Webex into one platform, and unite its collaboration portfolio onto the same cloud-based infrastructure. However, some analysts found the rebrand to be curious because Microsoft already uses the Teams name for its competing collaboration platform.

The argument could be made that Cisco is in fact copying Microsoft, according to Aragon Research analyst Jim Lundy. However, rebranding is a trend in the enterprise messaging space as a way to compete against collaboration platform Slack, Lundy wrote. Microsoft is following this trend as it migrates Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams.

Lundy said Cisco reinforcing its Webex brand is a smart move, but then he added this: "Shifting the name from Spark to Teams is a little weak. Cisco could have done better. Now the banter will be about which Teams app you are using. The worst move one can make in marketing is to confuse customers. Cisco will have to explain why it is using the same name that Microsoft went with."

Cisco finds strength in Cisco Spark, Webex integration

Despite the question over the Teams name, Cisco's decision to rebrand under the Webex platform is a smart move, several analysts said.

"Cisco's Webex brand has much more global awareness," Nemertes Research analyst Irwin Lazar wrote in a blog. "It makes sense that Cisco would look to bring its team offering to a wider audience."

The rebranding should also clear up customer confusion with the overlapping features of Cisco Spark and Webex, wrote David Maldow, founder and analyst at Let's Do Video. Combining the two services into a single platform should help clarify the products' use cases: Webex Teams for team-based messaging and Webex Meetings for video calls.

Maldow also noted the Spark brand could be confusing since many varied products use that name, including energy supplements, cleaning products and smart water bottles. In addition, in the tech world, Apache Spark is an open source analytics engine for big data processing.

The revamped Webex platform should help Cisco compete against Microsoft in the large enterprise market, Lazar said. The Webex platform could also compete for small-business customers in the unified-communications-as-a-service market, and in the meeting room market against vendors such as Zoom, Amazon and BlueJeans.

Zoom may be the largest competitor for Cisco in the meeting room space, Lundy said. Zoom is seeing strong growth and "running the same playbook" that helped Webex gain a foothold in the meeting room market. Some Zoom executives are former Cisco Webex personnel as well. 

Customers question potential for Webex and Jabber integration

While the revitalized Webex platform offers integrations in the meeting room with the Webex Room Kit and Webex Board, no mention was made of integrations with Jabber.

Lundy said he spoke with customers who are waiting for Cisco to announce some kind of integration between Webex Teams and Jabber. Maldow wrote he believes Jabber isn't going anywhere as he spoke with customers who discussed their preference for Jabber and reluctance to move away from the service. Cisco did announce Jabber updates recently.

However, as Cisco also emphasizes the cloud, on-premises customers and partners may wonder if Cisco will follow in Microsoft's footsteps. As Microsoft migrates Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams, will Cisco eventually replace Jabber with Webex Teams, Lazar wrote.

Dig Deeper on UC strategy