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Cisco Looks to Embedded Apps to Drive Its Platform Advantage
Over the past few years, Cisco has been pivoting Webex from being a product to a platform. In communications, at a most basic level, platform means having a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) back end that the vendor can use to build its unified communication (UC) and/or contact center software on.
But a platform is more than that. If one looks at other industries—customer relationship management (CRM), office productivity, HR software, and more—the most successful platform vendors are ones that have integrated their platforms with third-party vendors. From a workflow perspective, it’s much easier to work in one application than to constantly flip between them. The software companies that have made the pivot to platform enable customers to do more with their products than ones that operate standalone. While this is common in most of the software industry, it’s not a well-understood concept in the communications industry, where vendors are still in the early stages of evolving their offerings from product-focused to platform-centric.
Cisco has had a strong focus on embedded apps and integrations that enhanced the value of its Webex product. One of the most interesting sessions at the recent Cisco Live event focused on the many ways organizations can integrate with Webex. Adnan “Boat” Agboatwalla, director of product management, discussed this trend in a session at Cisco Live and shared some examples.
The first example Agboatwalla discussed is Cisco’s Embedded Apps Framework, that launched last year. The framework allows organizations to bring their software as a service (SaaS) apps into Webex meetings and spaces using software development kits (SDKs). Through the integration, a host can bring up content from another app during a meeting and share it with the participants directly in Webex instead of screen sharing. On the flip side, if someone uses an app like Salesforce and wants to launch a meeting or start a chat, they can do it in Salesforce without switching to Webex.
Webex integrates with all types of SaaS apps, not just the public ones. For instance, an Webex customer that wants to customize the Webex experience can develop its own app, widget, or bot for its users to use privately within the app. The integration would only be available to that organization, said Agboatwalla.
Another way to integrate with Webex is using application programming interfaces (APIs). Developers can utilize webhooks to notify apps when certain activities occur in Webex, rather than apps having to make constant calls to the API. For instance, a meeting notification app webhook would allow the app to take action, like notifying users of when a recording is ready. Organizations can use this type of capability to analyze meeting videos for sales and training purposes.
In the July Webex release, Cisco added the ability to view embedded apps in Stage View, which will make content the focal point during meetings. Mural is an example of an app that seamlessly integrates with Webex and will benefit from the new feature. Participants who use Mural’s digital whiteboard collaboration space will see content prominently displayed on the screen, while the meeting continues to run in the background (as a video strip on the side).
Also, the Embedded Apps Framework will be available on various touchscreen devices, including the Webex Board, Desk Pro, Desk Mini, and tablets. With this update, organizations will have the option of using embedded apps in messaging for iOS and Android. Three Cisco partners have already jumped onboard, including Mural, Slido, and Miro.
“Now you can launch embedded apps right on touchscreen devices, so you’re not limited to just the Windows or Mac version of Webex,” said Agboatwalla. “If you’re in a meeting room and you want to collaborate, you can walk up to a Webex Board, launch Mural, and everybody in the meeting can participate, regardless of which platform they’re using.”
Today, Webex has more than 450 integrations and growing. Organizations continue to find new use cases for the collaboration platform, such as tapping into virtual reality (VR) to bring meeting content to life. At their Cisco Live session, Vection Technologies shared a demo of its 3DFrame app within Webex, which immerses participants in a virtual environment they can navigate at scale. With 3DFrame, organizations can create complex 3D designs and animations without coding knowledge. The Webex integration brings those designs and animations into meetings, where participants with a VR-ready desktop and headset can explore them in a metaverse-type setting.
Cisco believes there are many opportunities for integrations that enhance the interaction between people and content. Rather than sharing static content on a flat screen, organizations across industries can build virtual catalogs that show products from many different angles in 3D. Alternatively, there are other instances where users can benefit from an immersive experience, such as learning and development, training, and much more.