The industry is still processing the implications of Cisco’s acquisition of Acano. When I covered that story, I wondered about its possible effect on their Spark strategy. As I stated at the time, I believe that Spark “is the real Cisco vision for video collaboration.”
While it’s still too early to map out final Acano integration into the Cisco portfolio, I was able to brief with Chris Wiborg, Director, Collaboration Portfolio Marketing at Cisco and confirm that Cisco is indeed extremely focused on Spark. Chris shared with me the details about what’s new with the Cisco Spark service. While the press release has the facts about the features, the big takeaway is Cisco is positioning Spark to be less of a siloed messaging tool and more like the hub of their customers’ entire Cisco communications environment.
I also watched the keynote address from the recent Cisco Collaboration Summit (above), to watch the Cisco exec team demonstrate the new capabilities that Chris shared with me. The keynote is two hours long but the three items I found particularly interesting were as follows:
Spark Calling – Spark is now a cloud telephony solution. This is completely unexpected and could be a huge deal. Office workers still want desktop phones and work phone numbers. Now, the Cisco phones themselves are going to work on a Spark phone operating system and the Spark cloud replaces any need for a PBX. The new desktop phones are voice and video enabled, so they have cameras. You can show a QR code on your smartphone to this camera and the desktop phone will configure itself to your Spark account. The desktop phone then knows it is YOUR phone with your correct phone number extension. When someone calls, you can answer on the desktop phone, or on the Spark app. Check out the keynote at about 40 minutes in for the demo.
Spark Meetings – This is basically the Cisco video room system equivalent of Spark Calling. Cisco meeting room systems will be running a new Spark meeting room OS (I wasn’t kidding about Spark being their real vision for video). In the same way that Spark can provisioning desktop phones via QR code, it can provision Cisco room systems. Business videoconferencing is still very heavily a meeting room affair. Connecting Spark to this environment and its users really opens things up for Spark. Even better than using the QR code, the meeting room systems actually detect (using proximity tech) when someone running Spark on their mobile device is in the room. It then allows that user to bring up a Spark call on the room system, using their mobile device as the remote control. Very slick stuff. check out the demo about 50 minutes into the keynote.
Spark APIs – This is a no brainer. By opening up Spark to the development community they are basically getting free improvements to their product while building an extremely engaged community of users. Including Trello as one of Spark’s earliest integrations gets a big thumbs up from the LDV team.
Chris and the keynote covered a number of other items including the new Spark Hybrid offering which does a number of things such as connecting Spark to their existing UC/Jabber install base. Cisco is really putting in a lot of dev time here. We also touched on the budding partnership between Apple and Cisco. The Apple thing is a huge deal and will have major implications. I am extremely interested seeing how that plays out with Spark on the iPhone and look forward to sharing the story with you as it develops.