Microsoft, Cisco go deeper into collaboration

Two of the biggest IT companies launched new team collaboration offerings this week aimed at capturing the attention of CIOs.

Microsoft announced Team, a chat-based workspace for Office 365.while Cisco Systems revealed a new online store called for users of its Spark collaboration service, where enterprises can find integration tools to SaaS platforms including Microsoft’s Office 365 and One Drive, DocuSign, Stripe and Salesforce.

Microsoft Team is available now in beta for organizations with Office 365 Enterprise or Business plans. General availability expected in the first quarter of 2017.


“With Microsoft Teams, we aspire to create a more open, digital environment that makes work visible, integrated and accessible—across the team—so everyone can stay in the know,” the company said in a blog.

Teams supports persistent but also threaded chats. Conversations can also be private. It is integrated with Skype so teams can also have voice and video conferences. In addition to integration with all components of Office 365, it is also part of Office 365 Groups, a cross-application membership service that makes it easy for people to move from one collaboration tool to another.

Users can customize their workspace, with extensibility and open APIs available. For example, Microsoft says, Tabs provides quick access to frequently used documents and cloud services. Teams also shares the same Connector model as Exchange, providing notifications and updates from third-party services like Twitter or GitHub. There’s also full support for the Microsoft Bot Framework to bring intelligent first- and third-party services into a team environment.

For security data is encrypted in transit and at rest.

To subscribe IT admins can go to their Office 365 admin center, click Settings > Services & Add Ins> Microsoft Teams.

Paolo del Nibletto, editor of our sister publication Computer Dealer News, reported this week from Cisco’s partner conference in Las Vegas about the new Spark Depot portal. “We have integrated everything that counts into Spark and plugged it into the existing business process,” he was told by Rowan Trollope, the senior-vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) and applications division. is a place to find integrations and bots for Spark users and businesses. An integration provides basic notifications for a service, acting on behalf of a Cisco Spark user, while a bot can perform tasks for any of the users in the room, presenting itself as another user. In addition to sending messages, a bot can post files and respond to messages – even join calls.

Cisco also announced that Spark, until now an on-premise solution, is now available as a subscription service called Spark Flex for a $21 a month per user license. This license gets a user Meetings, Calls, Messaging, Jabber, WebEx, and Premises Meetings. Flex will be sold through Cisco channel partners.

Rommell Mendoza, corporate director at Ignite CSG, a solution provider based in Calgary that specializes in collaboration solutions, told Computer Dealer News that Spark Flex simplifies and shortens the sales cycle for his customers as well as taking away the complexity in explaining all of the licensing options.

“Adoption is immediately limited when not everyone in the enterprise has access to all of the applications. The barrier to access is complexity in acquiring and costs. This new model should address both,” Mendoza said.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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