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Cisco and Google deepen collaboration partnership

Cisco and Google have committed to creating seamless integrations between Webex and the productivity apps in G Suite, which should help both vendors compete against Microsoft.

Developers from Cisco and Google have been working together to build native integrations between the Cisco Webex...

web conferencing and team collaboration platform and the productivity apps in G Suite. The partnership should help both vendors compete against rival Microsoft.

G Suite users will soon be able to schedule and join Webex meetings from Google Calendar with one click. The integration works on Cisco video conferencing hardware and within Google Chrome, without requiring downloads or guest accounts.

Cisco Webex Teams, which competes with Slack and Microsoft Teams, lets users collaborate in real time using Google Docs, Sheets and Slides -- the G Suite equivalents of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. That eliminates the need for users to upload a revised version of a file to Webex Teams after every edit.

Developers, meanwhile, can add Cisco calling and meeting capabilities to Android apps using the Webex Teams Android software development kit. For example, a pair of augmented reality smart glasses could be connected to Webex, so the wearer can stream a video feed from the device into a web conference.

"While Google and Microsoft compete with full portfolios of personal productivity and team collaboration, Cisco only has the team collaboration elements," said Alan Lepofsky, principal analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif. "So, deeper integration between Webex and Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive makes a lot of sense."

Cisco and Google plan future integrations  

While Cisco's collaboration portfolio also integrates with the productivity tools of Microsoft Office 365, those links are based on Microsoft's public APIs. In contrast, Cisco and Google have been working directly together to create seamless connections between their portfolios.

Public APIs "tend to be semi-limiting at times," said Sri Srinivasan, vice president and general manager of Cisco's team collaboration group. "With Google, it looks like one between Google and Webex."

Cisco and Google are currently exploring ways to use Google's AI technology within Webex for tasks such as transcription, translation, meeting notes and project management. Cisco was also one of several vendors to adopt Google's new AI platform for contact centers last month.

Amy Chang, who replaced Rowan Trollope as head of Cisco's $5 billion collaboration technology group in May, worked at Google for seven years before founding relationship intelligence firm Accompany.

"For Cisco, it certainly makes a great deal of sense to expand these partnerships to improve their ability to compete with Microsoft," said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill. "Same for Google, who lacks the broad UC [unified communications] suite, video conferencing and contact center offerings that Cisco provides."

Google expands presence in enterprise market

Google is working on additional Google Calendar integrations with the web conferencing vendors Arkadin, GoToMeeting, LogMeIn, Dialpad, RingCentral, Vidyo and Vonage. Google also recently made its online meetings platform, Hangouts Meet, interoperable with Microsoft Skype for Business and hardware from Cisco and Polycom.

At the same time that Google is tightening partnerships with Cisco and other vendors, the consumer tech giant has been building out its collaboration portfolio with products such as Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, a team collaboration app.

Last month, Google announced a beta program for a new enterprise telephony product based on WebRTC, called Google Voice for G Suite. If that platform proves successful, Google will be in a position to provide all of the core unified communications technologies that businesses require: voice, messaging and web conferencing.

It was surprising to see Google launch a stand-alone voice product, rather than position Google Voice as a virtual service within G Suite that could tie into existing enterprise telephony systems, Lazar said. The move could bring them into closer competition with Cisco, a leading provider of business telephony. 

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