Cisco folds Spark into Webex

Cisco strongly suggests that you turn on your camera when in a web meeting. (iStockPhoto)

Cisco has subsumed Spark, its team collaboration product, into Webex, its online conferencing product. Spark, now called Webex Teams, will henceforth be considered an add-on application for Webex Meetings.

Now, customers can still subscribe to one or the other. On the page that Cisco set up for potential subscribers to compare features and pricing, the company says that if you order Spark, you “will automatically receive an update to Webex Teams as soon as it’s ready.”

Rather than support two similar brands, Cisco will proceed with one. Not only will the the Spark tool suite get relabeled, Cisco will also affix the Webex moniker to the interactive white board device previously known as the Spark Board. Webex, Cisco explained, is the brand that people “already know and love.” 

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Gradually through the next few months, Cisco will automatically update all extant versions of the old Webex with the new version.

Prominent among the improvements is that it will now be “video first,” according to Cisco. Webex has always been a videoconferencing product, but apparently it was most frequently used sans video.

According to the company, being video first means that from now on, “you’ll be strongly encouraged to turn on your camera. That’s because seeing and being seen are fundamental to good teamwork. Gone are the days when you’d stare at the screen only to see the presentation. You’ll now see all your teammates, in crisp, clean layouts whether you are using your laptop, your Cisco video room device or your mobile device.”

Using Webex Teams as an extension adds features lacking in Webex Meetings, such as whiteboarding, persistent messaging, simple guest access, content sharing and integrated tools.

Cisco is also announced a new hardware device called Webex Share that will turn any TV into an adjunct screen for Webex sessions. Cisco described Webex Share as a low-cost, palm-sized adapter that can be plugged into the back of the TV. Once paired with the Webex system, it can be used to share documents or other screens. Webex Share will be available for Webex Meetings and Teams towards the end of 2018, the company said.

Cisco noted that customers will be able to use Webex for meetings with collaboration tools from other companies. “We’ll work with Google, Slack and others, too.”

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