Google and Cisco are putting their enterprise collaboration faith into the little $200 laptop.
Or maybe they're just trying to gang up on Microsoft.
No matter how you slice it, the companies announced today at Enterprise Connect in Orlando a collaboration for collaboration software: the Cisco WebEx experience on Google's Chromebook and the integration of Cisco UC technologies into Google Apps.
The companies envision the partnership providing capabilities such as joining a WebEx meeting directly from Google Calendar, or starting an instant meeting from Google Contacts or the Gmail People widget. Cisco and Google Apps users will see features -- such as messaging, fax, click-to-call and Cisco presence -- visible alongside Gmail.
Running WebEx on Chromebook is a better experience than anywhere else, said Cisco's Rowan Trollope, pictured left in the photo above next to Google's Rajen Sheth. Trollope is senior vice president of collaboration at Cisco.
"It's the best version of WebEx we've ever built," said Trollope, who announced the platform will not be deployed until it is "awesome" and ready. In other words, no release date yet.
"We want to provide the best experience on the fastest-growing platform," Trollope said in a press conference after today's keynote in Orlando.
Reaction to the news was positive at the conference:
One conference-goer broached an idea that this move is about Cisco and Google joining forces to compete with Microsoft:
Cisco keynote #enterprisecon: wow! Alliance with Google to take on Microsoft via Chromebooks.— tbanting (@tbanting) March 18, 2014
So is it about taking on Microsoft? Cisco and Google were asked that very question in a post-conference Q&A.
All three are really big companies,Trollope said, with overlaps in platforms.
"We are comfortable as a large global company having parts of our portfolio compete and others with synergies," Trollope said in the press conference Q&A.
The focus of this partnership with Cisco is answering what customers want and making the ecosystem around the Web better, said Google's Rajen Sheth, director of product management in Chrome for Business. He joined Trollope on stage this morning in Orlando.
Hangouts versus WebEx
Two analysts when approached by CMSWire about the Cisco-Google partnership wondered about the effect on Google Hangouts.
Tim Banting, a principal analyst of collaboration and communications for Current Analysis (whose tweet is above), told CMSWire he finds the partnership interesting.
But, he added, "Although I'm intrigued as Google already has Hangouts and Chromebox for meetings."
Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst focusing on collaboration and software for Constellation Research, told CMSWire he was "curious where Google draws the line in wanting people to use Hangouts vs. Cisco."
Cisco on the Move
Cisco has been busy lately in enterprise collaboration software circles, launching its new video capabilities last week and demoing them at the conference this morning.
Trollope said during his keynote that enterprise collaboration software vendors have to constantly keep the users in mind.
"People are sitting there frustrated with tools," he said. What they want is to get their work done and not have the tools get in the way. Too many vendors, he said, have a "technology-first" approach with the user experience added at the end.
Sell to the buyer, and the user takes whatever is given to them.
"That's not happening anymore," Trollope said. "People are taking technology into work with them."
He said vendors should prioritize tools this way: experience first, then software, hardware, infrastructure and network considerations.
"End users don't care about our industry," Trollope said. "They care about having a great experience."