In 2023, Cisco will join the Certified for Microsoft Teams program, kickstarting a partnership between the long-time rivals.
The move will see Microsoft Teams Rooms become natively available on Cisco Rooms.
In addition, Microsoft will certify several of Cisco’s devices – including its Cisco 320 and 720 Headsets, alongside its 4k desk camera.
Some may suggest that these moves signal an admission within Cisco that its mission to decouple businesses and Teams – via Webex – is virtually impossible. So, its next-best option is to improve the Teams experience.
However, Cisco will likely gain a boost from the deal. After all, it may offer more services to the Microsoft base – including contact center headsets and room systems – which will remain managed by Cisco.
Meanwhile, Microsoft may sense an opportunity to offer better end-point devices. After all, lots of large enterprises turn to Cisco for these, many of whom will also harness Teams. Marrying the two together is a potential win-win for the customers.
Yet, as Microsoft continues to launch these large-scale partnerships, a troubling question lingers: how will these moves impact the broader enterprise communications industry?
A Dark Day for the Competition
Consider the status quo in enterprise communications. Almost every carrier, UC, and contact center provider is promising to make Microsoft Teams better.
As a result, Teams is getting a lot of endorsement, and it is now becoming the default solution, primarily through the hype of other vendors.
Indeed, every provider seems to be striving to plug gaps in Teams. For instance, its calling is not fool-proof, so companies turn to a RingCentral integration. Also, its devices sometimes fail to cut the mustard, so now businesses will turn to Cisco.
But what happens when Microsoft closes the gaps? If they plug them, how will it affect the industry? These are potentially troubling questions to consider.
Moreover, some will consider the Microsoft-Cisco deal a potential worry for other stalwarts within the communications space, such as Zoom.
Perhaps, yet it’ll likely have more of an impact on device manufacturers such as Poly and Logitech, whose Microsoft offerings will no longer prove such a point of differentiation.
Finally, consider the CCaaS space. Microsoft’s recent entrance into the contact center market parallelled its first steps in the UC space when it launched Teams in 2017.
So, should the likes of NICE, Genesys, and Five9 be worried that Microsoft will snap away at their market share, as it has to others in the UC space?
Maybe not right away, as the contact center is mission-critical to many businesses. As such, most will likely prefer a comprehensive, tried-and-tested platform.
Yet, with Microsoft promising to aggressively innovate in the space, and UCaaS and CCaaS technologies becoming increasingly consolidated, leading contact center vendors may find themselves looking over their shoulders.
What Will Change?
Before the midpoint of 2023, Microsoft will officially certify the following Cisco Devices:
- Cisco Desk Camera 4K
- Cisco Headset 320
- Cisco Headset 720
- Cisco Board Pro
- Cisco Room Bar
- Cisco Room Kit Pro
- Cisco Desk Pro
- Cisco Room Navigator
Cisco also suggests that users can expect more to come.
Next, as Microsoft Teams Rooms becomes natively available in Cisco Rooms, users of the latter can enjoy the option of making Team Rooms the default experience.
Microsoft has also added an enhanced Webex joining experience, running a Webex client instead of the conventional guest log-in.
Moreover, this is the first solution for which Microsoft does not require a reboot, underlining the high degree of integration between the platforms.
As such, the move is even more eye-catching, and some may suggest that this could result in Webex losing its relevance in Cisco’s stack moving forward. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen.
Interoperability Always Wins
Despite speculation about how integrations with Microsoft will impact competition, increased interoperability leads to higher usage and is almost always better for everyone involved.
Cisco strived for this in recent years, making its devices multi-vendor. Indeed, it also integrates with Google Meet, Amazon Chime, and Zoom, continuously building up its list of partners. Such a strategy is in plain sight.
Explaining more, Jeetu Patel, EVP and GM of Security & Collaboration at Cisco, added:
Interoperability has always been at the forefront of our hybrid work strategy, understanding that customers want collaboration to happen on their terms — regardless of device or meeting platform
“Our partnership with Microsoft brings together two collaboration leaders to completely reimagine the hybrid work experience.”
Microsoft has moved in this direction, benefitting greatly from the take-up of Teams.
Alongside this, new partnerships with the likes of Oracle are likely to continue. After all, it is unwise to be an enemy to everyone, and – by being friendly – Microsoft is beginning to become a leading provider of many core technologies within the CX stack.