Disclosure: The companies mentioned are clients of the author.
When Cisco unveiled their great Webex last week, I was impressed. This week, Microsoft Ignite is ongoing, and Microsoft is treating collaboration as it once treated .Net. As of this writing, Cisco is in attendance at the event, talking about how the two companies are collaborating on developer tools and the significant impact of the collaboration on Cisco customers using Azure and App Dynamics.
Microsoft and Cisco are not natural competitors and have partner in the past with unified communications. It got me thinking: what if they collaborate on the future of communications? What if they worked together and blended Teams and Webex or shared technology to such a degree that the two products could also be enhanced and more seamlessly interoperable with each other?
Teams vs. Webex
The main differentiators that Microsoft is showcasing this week with Teams include things like deep integration of apps into their development and productivity tools and the use of avatars and holograms. Last week with Webex, Cisco exposed its deep integration with telephony, the use of employee monitoring while preserving privacy (for management), and the use of holograms. (Both products use Hololens.)
So which one to choose? You would choose Teams if you are committed to Microsoft’s toolset, and you would use Webex if you wanted to integrate your communication methods (phone + video conferencing) and if you had to make sure that your remote employees were not at risk. Your choice is between maximizing your productivity process or maximizing the efficiency of your employees. And your new problem is that the “or” doesn’t make sense – I can’t think of a company that doesn’t want to do both.
You can use Teams specifically for IT and software development (if you do software development), and you would use Webex for staff meetings. Depending on the nature of the collaboration needed, you can use either to connect the customer, vendor, or partner – Teams for software, Webex for everything else.
Teams + Webex
Collaboration tools are a force multiplier for the companies that make them. Microsoft Teams would likely have a greater economic impact as a tool used by Microsoft than a product sold by Microsoft because it makes Microsoft more efficient. The same is true for Webex and Cisco, which makes platform competition a lower priority than the capabilities of both platforms for their respective vendors or users. The sale of these tools is additional income; using these tools improves everything these companies do internally and externally.
Auto manufacturers often collaborate on cars and engines; Toyota and Suburu, for example, have teamed up on the FR-S and GT86. They shared the development costs and created a pair of sports cars that each could sell with a unique flavor, greatly increasing the overall volume and potentially reducing costs due to increased economies of scale.
In the case of Microsoft and Cisco, a collaboration would create a substantial competitive advantage over other existing and emerging products that do not match functionality or interoperability. (Equipment, like this offer from Poly, would work more easily with both than with a competing unaligned offering.)
Rather than Teams and Webex going separate and redundant paths, Microsoft and Cisco could develop the same basic functionality for each while optimizing the needs of their individual customers. They could divide the work, with Cisco focusing more on increasing network performance and integrating with Cisco tools. Microsoft, on the other hand, would focus on better integration of Hololens and their tools – and both could advance avatar capabilities which need to be much more realistic.
Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex lead the collaboration market with unique features and capabilities. But they each have unique advantages. Teams is more integrated with Microsoft’s tools and is expected to increase productivity within this set of products. Webex is more integrated with existing telephony tools and ensures better work by ensuring work / life balance and department / team dynamics (potentially improving employee loyalty and retention.)
I can’t think of a single company that wouldn’t want both sets of features. In addition, Microsoft and Cisco would use their respective tools to improve the performance of each company.
By joining forces, they would set a new bar for the market, almost impossible to match for any rival. By sharing the effort to advance their respective products, innovation would also accelerate, making the combined effort almost impossible to catch.
Stranger things have happened.
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