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Cisco folds Spark into Webex as Webex Teams

Webex Teams takes all of the collaboration features in Cisco Spark and offers them alongside features based on the Webex conferencing platform.

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(Image: Cisco)

Cisco on Wednesday announced the convergence of its Cisco Spark and Webex platforms into a new ecosystem of services. The result is a new Webex meetings application and a Webex-enabled Spark application -- now called Webex Teams.

Webex Teams takes all of the collaboration features in Cisco Spark and offers them alongside features based on the Webex conferencing platform, such as whiteboarding, persistent messaging, simple guest access, and content sharing.

Cisco said this is a total integration of technology across platforms, complete with a common cloud back end and user experience.

"Prior to this convergence, we had Cisco Spark with its own type of meeting -- the Spark meeting, but we still had Webex with its own Webex meetings," said Jonathan Rosenberg, CTO of Cisco's collaboration business. "Users could join Cisco Spark meetings only from the Cisco Spark app, and Webex meetings from the Webex app. Users could join Webex meetings from Cisco Spark if they were clever, but they did not get any of the critical meetings features. With this convergence it's all simplified."

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The new Webex Meetings will take a "video first" approach. According to Cisco, this means encouraging users to turn on their camera for each meeting. In addition, Webex Meetings will now allow up to 1,000 people to join, and Cisco said it added more storage, advanced security and analytics capabilities. The latest version of Webex Meetings will roll out to users automatically in the coming months.

The Webex rebrand applies to a bevy of existing Cisco devices and services. For instance, the Cisco Spark Board becomes the Webex Board and the Spark Assistant -- borne out of Cisco's acquisition of MindMeld -- is now known as Webex Assistant.

The freshly named Webex Assistant is also gaining some updates that bring more functionality and extend its availability to more devices. Cisco said Webex Assistant will start showing up over the next couple of months in all Cisco's cloud-connected Webex Room Kit and Room Series devices.

In addition, Cisco is also launching Webex Share, a hardware adapter that turns a TV screen into a Webex meeting screen. Webex Share will be available for Webex Meetings and Teams toward the end of 2018. Lastly, Cisco announced the Collaboration Flex Plan, a new subscription option that charges per active user.

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