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Cisco unveils new Spark collaboration platform in APAC

Spark will be the future platform for integrating all of Cisco’s collaboration technologies, according to a Cisco regional executive

Cisco has taken the wraps off the latest version of its Spark collaboration platform in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, promising an easier way for workers to collaborate digitally in physical spaces.

A key component of Cisco’s Spark platform is Spark Board, a large touch-screen panel that enables workers to present and sketch ideas, as well as engage in video and voice conference calls.

Through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs), Spark also integrates with business applications such as Salesforce’s Service Cloud and Sales Cloud, allowing users to communicate in real-time in the Salesforce environment without the need for plug-ins.

At a launch event on 21 March 2017, Darryl McKinnon, managing director of Cisco’s collaboration business in Asia-Pacific and Japan, said Spark addresses the needs of millennial employees who want to be able to collaborate on any device and wherever they are.

“We want people to have the experience of joining a meeting from any device – a mobile phone, desktop, TV or a video wall – and be actively engaged in a meeting,” he said, adding that Cisco has found that 65% of people retain information better through video meetings rather than voice calls.

Spark, which comes with content encryption capabilities, is available through the cloud on a subscription basis, or on-premises for organisations such as banks and financial institutions that have strict data protection and compliance rules.  

McKinnon said the launch of Spark comes at a time when demand for unified communications is rising in APAC, adding that 24% of Cisco’s customers in the region are looking to upgrade their communications infrastructure in the next 12 months. “This is a huge opportunity for us,” he said.

Besides Spark, Cisco also supplies other collaboration tools such as Jabber, WebEx and Cisco TelePresence. When asked if Cisco plans to streamline its product lines, McKinnon said Spark will be the future platform for bringing all of Cisco’s collaboration technologies together.

Cisco will continue to offer WebEx and Jabber for organisations that may not require all of Spark’s features, though both products will be available through the Spark platform over time, McKinnon said.

According to technology analyst firm IDC, the APAC unified communications market, excluding Japan, will reach $659m by 2018. Australia is the largest market in this IT segment, followed by China, India and South Korea.

Cisco, along with Microsoft, Mitel and Avaya, are the current market leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for unified communications in 2016. ... ...

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