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Collaboration applications faceoff: Microsoft vs. Cisco

Microsoft's Skype for Business and Cisco's Jabber and WebEx have similar features. Here, we compare these collaboration applications to find the similarities and differences.

Cisco and Microsoft have long jockeyed for collaboration domination. A few of their comparable collaboration applications include Microsoft's Skype for Business, and Cisco's Jabber and WebEx. Essentially, the apps are similar but different.

WebEx is Web conferencing. Jabber is voice, video and instant messaging. Skype for Business is voice, video and IM, but it is heavily integrated with other Microsoft Office 365 products, just as Cisco collaboration tools play nicely with other Cisco products.

The primary differentiator is that Cisco has many of the collaboration components within its own portfolio, while Microsoft partners with third-party vendors to supply certain features, according to Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research.

"The biggest differentiator is the breadth of the applications -- whether it's single vendor or not," he said. "It's a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison. It's not always going to be an either/or."

Price and ease of use aren't always the big differentiators, Lazar said. Feature capabilities are the main attraction. Features can vary widely depending on what service you sign up for and what platform you use. So, let's see how a few of the biggest collaboration applications stack up. (View and download this chart as a PDF here.)

Features

Skype for Business

Cisco Jabber

Cisco WebEx

Video conferencing

  • Group HD video meetings
  • Turn instant messaging conversation or audio call into video call
  • Add participants mid video call
  • Record audio and video in meetings
  • Toggle between full window and compact version
  • Interoperable with other vendors' video teleconferencing systems

 

  • Softphone with group HD video calling/meetings
  • Video calls can be placed to other UC clients or other standards-based video endpoints like a video conference room
  • Desk phone video
  • Expand video to full screen
  • Add contacts to video call
  • Start video call within IM

 

  • Group HD video calling/meetings
  • View full screen or adjust proportions
  • See up to 7 people's video feeds
  • Record audio and video in meetings
  • Start side chat with anyone in meeting

 

Voice

  • Check audio quality before call
  • Use computer mic and speakers or headset for audio device
  • Switch audio device mid call
  • Make calls with desk phone
  • Call holding, forwarding, muting
  • Rate call quality
  • Call contacts from Word

 

  • IP voice volume control
  • Transfer from desktop to mobile without interruption
  • Add others to call
  • Add video
  • Visual voicemail
  • Call transfer, holding and muting

 

  • HD voice when joining by VoIP
  • Integrated audio to show who's speaking
  • Call Me feature makes meeting call you -- no dial in, no passcodes required
  • VoIP or phone call-in

IM & Presence

  • Group IM
  • Add contacts mid conversation
  • Manage multiple IM conversations at once
  • Add audio, video and share files via IM
  • Automatically saves IM history; view or continue previous IMs
  • Presence based on Outlook calendar
  • Stress message importance
  • IM within a meeting
  • If someone calls, you can start an IM instead of taking call

 

  • Manage multiple IM sessions at once
  • Group or individual chat within or outside your organization
  • Presence automatically changes
  • Rich presence
  • IM and presence capabilities across other IM clients
  • Message history kept between you and each contact -- voice messages, calls, emails
  • Move from IM to text, call, email or start WebEx meeting
  • Custom presence status capability

 

  • Instant messaging through Jabber

Sharing & Collaboration

  • Share desktop and programs during meeting
  • Hand control of desktop to others in meeting so they can make changes to files
  • Select which participants can download shared files

 

  • Desktop and file sharing lets others view content on your screen for real-time collaboration
  • VPN-less remote access

 

 

 

  • Show your whole desktop or just one application and keep the rest private
  • File sharing
  • Remotely control others' desktops
  • Markup tools and whiteboard
  • Share presenter role

 

Meetings & Scheduling

  • Check contacts' availability before scheduling meeting
  • Set meeting restrictions on participants
  • Schedule meetings in Outlook
  • Join meetings from desktop and Web browsers
  • Up to 250 people in meetings

 

  • Launch WebEx sessions from calendar view
  • Reminder pop-ups for meetings
  • Escalate to WebEx meeting from Jabber
  • Contact search
  • Launch sessions from calendar view
  • Reminder pop-ups for meetings
  • Schedule meetings in Outlook
  • Ad-hoc and scheduled meetings
  • Schedule with Outlook or Lotus Notes
  • View WebEx meetings in Jabber client

 

Platforms

  • Android, iOS, Mac, Windows and Web clients
  • Android, Blackberry, iOS, Mac, Windows
  • PCs, Macs, Linux, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone 8

 

Interoperability

  • Interoperability with third-party dial-in conferencing providers
  • Integrates with Office apps and consumer Skype

 

  • Integrated with Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint
  • Initiate communications within desktop apps
  • Jabber SDK available
  • Interoperable with Cisco Collaboration products, some Office integration

 

Price

  • Online Plan 1: $2 per user, per month with annual commitment
  • Online Plan 2: $5.50 per user, per month with annual commitment
  • Plan 3: Server 2015
  • Typically bundled within various SaaS and on-premises license packages
  • Jabber For Everyone plan is free for on-premises users under certain terms

 

  • WebEx Meetings free with 3 people per meeting up to WebEx Event Center plan for up to 1,000 participants for $479 per month ($383 a month on annual plan). Several layers of services available.

Next Steps

Comparing Cisco collaboration services: Spark vs. WebEx

Microsoft Skype for Business is not the same as consumer Skype

Microsoft vs. Cisco: Going beyond the features

This was last published in June 2015

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If you're considering collaboration applications, what features do you need?
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I need a way to do quick voting during conference calls. MaestroConference is expensive, but it lets our people 'raise their hands' or vote by pressing a number on their phone (1-5 are available for every participant.).
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I have not had the opportunity to use Microsoft Skype for Business. I have previously used MS Communicator, and am now currently using Cisco Jabber as well as a Cisco VOIP phone (previously, we had landline phones).

Most of us preferred Communicator over Jabber. It was well integrated with Outlook, which was really nice. I've had some performance issues with Jabber. It is also kind of a pain to switch between the Cisco phone and making/receiving calls on a headset.
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Thanks for the feedback and insight, abuell. And that reliance on Outlook is key in the Microsoft-Cisco showdown as addressed here: http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/unified-communications/microsoft-outlook-and-the-inside-collaboration-app-conundrum/

Microsoft does indeed seem to be making inroads recently: http://searchunifiedcommunications.techtarget.com/news/4500250378/Office-365-telephony-an-emerging-threat-to-Cisco-UCM
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Enjoying this article series and the narrative around the various subjects being addressed. One thing I find lacking in the above feature comparison table is the end-user and business case perspective.

Skimming through it the table it is not apparent to me whether there are any major gaps in functionality between the Microsoft and Cisco offerings (upon closer reading perhaps there are some obvious ones, but at a glance these are not apparent).

Seems to me these types of comparisons focus on features and functionality, rather than suitability for a given use case or business outcome. As a result I find sometimes these feature matrix "bakeoffs" can be misleading, showing that while the entrants may in fact be technically capable of fulfilling a given functional variable, the way they do it may not be amenable to the way end users would likely want to use it. As a result that feature ends up not really being leveraged, leaving end users to fend for themselves, or seek out alternative solutions elsewhere. To me this is a huge miss in many of these analyses. Any thoughts?
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Thanks, tshort, for the feedback. You're spot on. The apps' features are very, very similar. The difference mainly is how they're used.

The purpose of this chart was to present the features and perhaps let the readers decide which app is for them. Or maybe they don't need any of these apps.

You present a good story idea: Find users of these apps and let them provide their feedback. Finding users, however, who can give an unbiased view on the app can be quite difficult. Also, a business use case angle to a story could be beneficial, too. Thanks.
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