Cisco has announced the launch of its Spark collaboration product portfolio in New Zealand following a lengthy licensing negotiation process with local telecommunications carrier Spark NZ.
While Cisco Spark was launched globally two years ago, it had been previously unable to do so in New Zealand due to trademark licensing conflicts.
Following an 18-month negotiation, however, the Cisco Spark tools will be available to New Zealand customers as of Monday.
Dave Wilson, Cisco's New Zealand Country Manager, told ZDNet that the most important part of the process was ensuring Spark NZ's rights were adequately protected.
"What we had to do was work together to figure out how we could, which is no easy feat, protect their brand rights, so that was first and foremost a priority for us, because in doing that we would be able to bring what is a quite exciting next-generation platform to our end customers," Wilson explained.
"What we pretty quickly realised is we needed to give them exclusivity of anything Cisco Spark, because it was really the only platform and means to be able to control and make sure we were protecting their brand rights together."
The entire Cisco Spark portfolio will now be available in New Zealand, including its security features and the Spark Board -- which have all seen demand build up after the delay in availability, especially among trans-Tasman customers that have already been making use of the products in Australia.
"[It] includes everything that's there, so the Cisco Spark ... cloud-based platform, enterprise-grade encrypted and secure end-to-end that's really important in this day and age of cybersecurity issues," Wilson told ZDNet.
"The open API side of it is open from day one, including the partners that have already developed against that or developers that want to get a view into that open API."
With the products having progressed technologically since the original global launch, Wilson said the company now has a lot more to offer -- including built-in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI).
"Because the developments have moved along with it, we'll be also able to demo the virtual side of it as well," he explained.
"Everybody wants to know about AR, VR, AI, and this is all the sort of stuff that's coming into this platform."
Wilson argued that Cisco Spark now goes beyond simply unified communications, and could be used for improving specifically education and health providers.
"It's bigger than that. Yes, it does everything it used to do on video and messaging and point to point, but now it's much bigger," he said. "It gives us a chance with these other companies to give them the scale of a global platform.
"This could really revolutionise health and the way we do health, especially to remote regions in New Zealand ... and education always needs to be ongoing and transformed to evolve and help with the digital literacy skills.
"Any customer that is on a digital journey of any sort, it's really a platform that they should look at."
The negotiations with Spark NZ resulted in a new distributor of Cisco products: Spark NZ subsidiary Telegistics. As a result, Cisco has agreed to distribute its Spark-branded products through the channel under its normal channel mode via Telegistics.
"Together, what we've done is given that right to Telegistics to become a Cisco distributor, and so they will become part of our global distribution network, our programs, everything that we do, our governance ... that has enabled all Cisco's existing channel and anybody new to be able to access these products," Wilson told ZDNet.
Until last month, Cisco had three distributors in New Zealand: Westcon-Comstor, Ingram Micro, and Dicker Data. However, Cisco then announced a strategic decision to limit its distributor partnership solely to Westcon-Comstor, with Ingram Micro and Dicker Data being off-boarded during the next quarter.
According to Wilson, this strategic decision was made to better align Cisco's business with the digital transformation projects occurring in market.
"It was a very, very hard decision to make, but we had to continue to evolve what we looked and feel like in a rapidly changing market," he explained, adding that Cisco still has an ongoing distributor relationship with Ingram Micro globally, and with Dicker Data in Australia.
Under the licensing decision with Spark NZ, Telegistics will now join Westcon-Comstor as a New Zealand Cisco distributor, and is being on-boarded over the next eight weeks.
Under its exclusivity deal, however, Westcon-Comstor will have to negotiate with Telegistics if it wishes to distribute any Spark-branded products.
"Spark's a large company, so they've got some fairly significant warehousing, logistics, procurement operations, so they've been working to consolidate that over a number of years, and Telegistics has been that arm for them," Wilson told ZDNet.
"They're not your traditional distributor, but they have been doing the work of a very large logistical warehousing, procurement, and distribution business for multiple products and brands right down to different mobile handsets and up to larger products.
"It brings a new feel and flavour of a distributor to the market for us."