Cisco and Google are partnering to bring WebEx to the cloud-oriented Chromebook. The move continues Cisco's recent push to expand its presence in new business markets.
In a posting earlier this week on the Cisco corporate blog, Cisco executive Rowan Trollope noted the joint announcement made with Google at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando. "Our mission is to get amazing yet affordable collaboration into the hands of more people," he wrote, citing the company's recently announced upgrading of its video conferencing line of products.
With the WebEx integration/bundling with Chromebooks, he noted, a user can join a WebEx meeting right from Google Calendar, start an instant message from a Google Contact Card or the Google People Widget, or click on a phone number in Gmail or Google Apps.
'Boost for Both Companies'
Similarly, Chrome for Business Product Manager Saswat Panigrahi wrote on Google's Official Enterprise Blog that the companies are also integrating other Cisco Unified Communications technologies into Google Apps.
Currently, WebEx is not available on Chromebooks because it requires the downloading of a browser plug-in, a factor that also complicates its use for businesses in the non-Chromebook world. Cisco will be recoding WebEx for HTML5 so it can run without a plug-in, which might eventually mean WebEx will also become generally available in that fashion. Google reportedly will also have to do some recoding on its end.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, told us that "it's a boost for both companies." Google offers another business tool as it tries to broaden Chromebook's appeal in that market, and Cisco expands the reach of its growing Unified Communications product line. She pointed out the companies "have a history of working together," such as the availability of Gmail in Cisco's Unified Communications tools.
Competing with Microsoft
Of course, the companies are also competitors. Google's Hangouts, especially as its video capabilities expand, is a competitor to WebEx and Cisco's video conference products, although Cisco is currently more embedded in the business market for Web meetings and conferencing. Both are competing against Microsoft's growing emphasis on video conferencing with its Lync and Skype products.
Last week, Cisco took aim at increasing another part of its business presence with the biggest boost ever to its videoconferencing lineup. It unveiled three integrated video conferencing systems, a TelePresence SX10 Quick Set to turn an existing flat panel display into a HD video collaboration system, and several new cameras.
The cameras included the TelePresence SpeakerTrack 60, a dual camera system that utilizes facial recognition and voice triangulation technology to automatically zoom toward and follow the active speaker in a large meeting. Additionally, the beta-stage Intelligent Proximity feature can be integrated into any of Cisco's solutions, allowing a smartphone or tablet in a videoconference meeting to share materials and become part of the meeting.