After seeing Zoom emerge victorious from the health crisis, Cisco is doing everything to put Webex back at the center of the game. At its Future of Work online event, Cisco launched a new version of Webex in an effort to regain its position as the premier global videoconferencing provider, which it had owned since the company was acquired in 2007. Alas, over the years, Webex had to face many competitors, until Zoom came into the market with a bang, under the leadership of its co-founder, CEO and former Webex product manager, Eric Yuan.
In the United States, Zoom currently holds 60% of the online video conferencing market. Globally, the platform has around 300 million daily users. Zoom’s top 10 competitors are Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Skype, Webex, RingCentral, 8×8, Fuze, LogMeIn, Mitel, and Vonage, roughly in that order. Still, at a global level, Microsoft Teams holds the high pie in Zoom.
Number 3 in the global market is Google Meet, with 21 countries – including Denmark, Italy and Romania – that have chosen this platform. In fourth place is Skype, which suffered the biggest loss with a 25.8% drop in market share year-over-year, according to a study carried out in March 2021. In this poll, Zoom was named the world’s most popular call / virtual meeting platform and ranked number 1 in 44 of 118 countries surveyed.
A mess of improvements
To strengthen itself in the face of this fierce competition, Cisco announced on Tuesday the launch of new features intended to facilitate hybrid work, at home and / or in the office. In a recent study, Cisco found that before the pandemic, only 8% of meetings had at least one virtual participant. In the future, this figure is expected to reach an impressive 98%, according to Cisco. It’s clear that hybridization is the way of the future, according to the company.
The following enhancements are expected to be implemented by mid-summer on the Webex platform:
- New Pricing: Webex will now be sold as a suite, in which customers will have access to everything Webex – including meetings, calls, messaging, polls, and events – for one price. The exact price will vary depending on customers, channel partners and other factors, but customers should expect to pay around 40% less than for a pay-per-view purchase, Cisco says.
- End-to-End Events: The term “event” is broad and can include everything from a small meeting to webinars to a large conference. The “events” portion of Webex includes all of the above, with the experience of large events being fueled by the IP from the acquisition of Socio Labs.
- Audience Interaction Tools: One of the most exciting features for events comes from the acquisition of Slido, as it brings audience interaction capabilities like polls, quizzes, and Q&A. These tools can also be used in live events to allow a speaker to interact more effectively with the audience.
- Audio Intelligence: Building on Webex’s Current Noise Cancellation and Speech Enhancement Capabilities, Cisco Says Users Will Have New Speech Optimization Capability for Remote Workspaces and shared with My Voice Only, to eliminate background noise – especially the voices of people in the background – and focus only on the main speaker.
- New Devices: The Webex Desk is an all-in-one collaboration device designed for offices at work or at home. Immersive collaboration experiences are delivered through touch interactions in the Webex RoomOS that connects workflows with less context switching. The Webex Assistant Skills platform opens a group of voice-activated extensions to integrate more controls, content, and apps for Webex devices.
- Secure Experiences: Real-time Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Webex, which automatically blocks and removes confidential information, will be available in email. In addition, European Webex customers will be able to host and process their content within the EU. Webex users will also benefit from enhanced end-to-end encryption options.
For analyst Zeus Kerravala, director of ZK Research, who follows Cisco closely, Webex certainly has strengths, like security and scale, but it clearly lags many other competitors when it comes to usability in recent years. “It didn’t have most of the cutting-edge features, like virtual backgrounds, which users seem to like,” he explains.
“Since then, the company has come back strong and quickly and methodically added feature after feature. Over the past nine months, Cisco has added more than 800 new Webex features and capabilities through four acquisitions, which include BabbleLabs (noise reduction), still (contact center intelligence), Slido (interaction with the public) and Socio (event platform). “