Michelle Burbick
Michelle Burbick is the Associate Editor and a blogger for No Jitter, UBM Tech's online community for news and analysis...
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Michelle Burbick | March 25, 2015 |


Igniting Cisco Spark

Igniting Cisco Spark Cisco announces Cisco Spark, a commercialized version of the Project Squared collaboration app debuted last November.

Cisco announces Cisco Spark, a commercialized version of the Project Squared collaboration app debuted last November.

If you're a regular No Jitter reader or attended Enterprise Connect Orlando last week, then you no doubt have heard about Cisco Spark. Team collaboration tools were all the rage at the conference, and Cisco's entry gathered its fair share of attention.

Originally launched as Project Squared in November, No Jitter featured quite a bit of coverage on Cisco's move into this new arena. To catch up on all that coverage, take a look through the links to the right. I've also embedded the full Cisco keynote below so you can catch up on everything you may have missed from them at Enterprise Connect. BUT, in the meantime, I'll break down everything you need to know about the official commercial launch of Cisco Spark.

Modernizing Collaboration
The main idea behind the Cisco Spark app is to provide a fresh, modern way for business teams to communicate both internally and outside of the company. As Cisco says, "When teams work collaboratively from anywhere and across virtually any device, sparks fly."

"We've been on this mission to bring no-compromise collaboration experiences to all employees – to every room, every desk, and every pocket," Ross Daniels, director of marketing at Cisco, told me in a pre-briefing.

By now, most are aware that the app provides a place to store and share documents and files, as well as a platform from which to launch virtual meetings, video calls, and chats. Anyone can sign up for Cisco Spark and get the following free features:

  • One-to-one group messaging and file sharing
  • One-to-one video calling and meetings
  • Screen sharing in rooms with as many as three participants
  • Integration with mobile calendar and contacts
  • End-to-end content encryption
  • Online self-service capability

By launching the collaboration app as a work in progress -- a project, if you will -- Cisco was able to solicit feedback from early users and incorporate features and functionality based on their input. Specifically, Cisco made the following enhancements to the app:

  • Moderating Rooms -- Users can remove or invite people to virtual rooms.

  • Calendar Integration -- Users can create a room in Cisco Spark with a single tap from any calendar meeting invite.

  • Administration -- Administrators can establish single sign-on (SSO), set up role-based access controls, sync with directories, and access usage reports.

  • New Windows Client -- Via a new Windows client, users can access content on a desktop more quickly than with the initial version, as well as receive notifications regardless of whether Spark is open or not.

  • Meetings Enhancements -- Using a WebRTC-enabled Firefox browser, users can share video and computer screen during meetings without using a plug-in, and all meeting participants can share screens simultaneously.

  • More Languages Supported -- Newly supported languages include Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.

In addition to the free version, Cisco now offers Spark subscriptions that provide additional features. Cisco Spark Message provides all the basic features in addition to room moderation, directory sync, live support, and SSO. Cisco Spark Message and Meet gives all the functionality of the Cisco Spark Message subscription as well as the ability to have meeting rooms of as many as 25 users and the use of WebEx Meeting Center or Enterprise Edition. The end user pricing will vary greatly based on volume tiers and partner discounting, Daniels told me; but representative pricing for Message is $13 per user per month, and $25 per user per month for Message and Meet.

"To stay competitive, business leaders and employees are desperate to modernize their organizations, becoming more agile and nimble and less hierarchical," said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, in a release about Cisco Spark. "Existing tools like email were built for a slower moving world and aren't cutting it today. To truly transform, businesses need a new way for their teams to communicate and move faster. We knew we had a game changer on our hands with Cisco Spark when we saw companies using it to transform how teams work together. Cisco Spark is enabling this transformation by bringing everything together in one place -- team members, their text based discussions, documents they work on, and the ability to connect in real time with multi party voice and video."

Watch Trollope's full Enterprise Connect keynote to see what else Cisco has been up to, and explore additional coverage on No Jitter:

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