12 months ago, Microsoft and Cisco – two longtime rivals and giants of enterprise tech – came together to form an eyebrow-raising partnership.
In doing so, they announced that Cisco’s video equipment would become compatible with Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR).
Cisco follows in the footsteps of Poly, Logitech, and many others in making this move. Yet, its partnership with Microsoft has accelerated at an exceptional rate.
“It was ten months from signing the paperwork to getting the first device out, which is incredibly quick,” said Ilya Bukshteyn, VP of Microsoft Teams Calling and Devices.
Now, we’re into the customer adoption phase, where we’re starting to see hundreds of customers deploying many devices across many thousands of rooms.
Those deployments now include desks, digital whiteboards, and small- and big-size rooms. Then, there are headsets, USB cameras, and Cisco’s new Teams-certified Room Kit EQX solution.
That’s quite the innovation cycle. However, what most differentiates the partnership are the exclusive benefits Cisco received. For instance, businesses can run Webex – its collaboration portfolio – on Microsoft Teams.
While that’s true for competitors – including Zoom and RingCentral – Teams users may do so without rebooting their devices and port seamlessly over to Webex.
Snorre Kjesbu, SVP & GM of Cisco Collaboration Devices, underlines this next-level interoperability as a critical differentiator.
In doing so, he reveals that Cisco asked 3,800 of its customers: how many meeting platforms do you use? 85 percent said they use two or more meeting platforms.
Unsurprisingly, Teams proved the most common platform businesses installed alongside Webex as two separate, disjointed applications.
“We’re solving that for our joint customers by being backend agnostic, allowing businesses to use MTR and Webex.
That’s key because clients may work with sub-suppliers, partners, and their customers and realize a different type of requirement. And what’s driving Microsoft and Cisco is doing what’s right for the end-customer.
Alongside greater interoperability with other meeting platforms, “doing what’s right for the end-customer” may mean pulling Microsoft Teams closer to Cisco’s Control Hub and ThousandEyes solutions — which pave the way for op-to-op, cloud-to-device network inspection.
Microsoft and Cisco have recognized this opportunity and are actively engaging with mutual customers to gain feedback and spot more collaboration opportunities.
Microsoft & Cisco Customers: Please Do More!
Bukshteyn said: “I would characterize the customer feedback as: please do more! They want us to work with more devices and continue to blend the best of AI on the Edge from Cisco with our cloud and meeting experience.
“We’ll continue listening to customers and working to deliver more of what our customers tell us they like.”
Another example of how the vendors have done so already is by blending the Webex Contact Center with Teams. Indeed, Microsoft confirmed the CCaaS platform’s certification in February.
Nonetheless, some may question these moves and why Microsoft would consider giving Cisco such a leg up in enterprise communications, citing its UC dominance and longtime rivalry.
Yet, as Dave Michels, Lead Analyst at TalkingPointz.com, suggested upon the partnership’s formation, that rivalry may work in Cisco’s favor. He said:
Because they already share probably about 90 percent of the same customers, they have already established boundaries.
“Microsoft has no desire to see Zoom, RingCentral, or Google in any of its accounts.”
In this sense, Microsoft is almost picking Cisco as its chief communications rival, taking an active interest in the company that may become the Samsung to its Apple.
Whether that plan comes to fruition is yet to be seen. Although Cisco’s collaborations business has picked up recently after a tricky start to 2022 – and the vendor made several exciting announcements at Webex ONE last week.
Kjesbu teases many more, with Microsoft at Cisco’s side. He stated:
“Customers are saying: “There are certain things that Microsoft is doing that are really great. Cisco, you need to implement that!” And vice versa.”
Recognizing this, we share notes, and we’re going to continue to push that envelope.
Bukshteyn makes a similar promise, noting that the co-innovation is only a “small sample of what’s to come.”
“And – you never know – we may also surprise everyone,” he concluded.
To hear more from Bukshteyn and Kjesbu on what’s to come from the Microsoft-Cisco partnership, check out the interview below from UC Today, our sister publication.