San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems is partnering with Gupshup — a bot and messaging platform provider — to bring more bots into its Spark messaging service.

Gupshup co-founder and CEO Beerud Sheth said the partnership will enable developers to quickly build and incorporate advanced chat bot functionality into the Spark ecosystem.

Combined with the recent integration of IBM Watson’s machine learning technology, it seems clear that Cisco is looking to use advanced bots for enterprise collaboration in a move that could give potentially dethrone other collaboration platforms, including Slack.

The partnership was announced at Cisco Live! 2016 currently underway in Las Vegas. And while it has the scent of the usual puffing and blowing that accompanies big user conferences, there’s a lot here to make other enterprise vendors pay attention.

Bots Rule the Enterprise

Bots are hot. There is really no argument that they are going play an important role for enterprises in the near future, and will probably displace a lot of existing technologies in the long term.

Even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has embraced bots, which is already incorporating in his company's technologies. In a speech at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this week, he said, “Everyone today who’s building applications, whether they be desktop apps or mobile apps or websites, will build bots as the new interface.”

All this puts Gupshup in an enviable position. Solely focused on messaging and bots, it's now beginning to rub shoulders with the big boys.

Cisco Sparks with Gupshup

Cisco Spark, originally launched in November 2014 as Project Squared, is a business collaboration app that combines chat, audio, video, multi-party meetings and content sharing in a single experience. 

Built on the Cisco Collaboration Cloud Platform, it was Cisco's way of keeping up with enterprise collaboration software through alignment with its Intercloud strategy.

Gupshup was founded in June 2004 in Mumbai, India, but is now headquartered in California. It has raised $43 million in funding and has built its business around an enterprise messaging platform. It has also been busy developing bots, which its co-founder Sheth said is just the latest paradigm shift in the collaboration space.

Web App Evolution

Bots are the latest reincarnations of apps and websites. Everything workers did previously using websites and apps they will soon be able to do through bots, with the added capability of doing it from inside a messaging app.

“Bots make software simpler and easier to use. It sounds simple, but this will have as transformative an impact as websites did in the era of desktop apps. Bots transport information from one system to another, increasing productivity and simplifying mundane tasks,” Sheth said.

There are multiple trends converging to drive the bot phenomenon right now, he told CMSWire.

“Consumers hate downloading apps. We have reached app fatigue. Except for a handful of top use cases, users aren't using as many apps any more.  Apps are also expensive to build, upgrade and promote," he said.

The best way for brands and businesses to engage with mobile users is through bots delivered via messaging apps, he said. adding, "That's driving the gold rush in bots.”

Win-Win for Cisco & Gupshup

For Cisco, the partnership with Gupshup removes problems around building and deploying a bot including scripting, development, testing, publishing, and monitoring, Sheth said. For Gupshup, connecting it to Cisco Spark gives it new enterprise penetration.

It’s a competitive market and one that is likely to get even more competitive very quickly as companies like Microsoft or IBM get in on the action. Asked how Gupshup will compete, Sheth said "by being the best, the earliest and the most bot-focused company in the space. About 2,500 developers have built 4,000 bots since Gupshup’s bot platform opened earlier this year, all of which are now available on Cisco Spark. More than 30,000 SMS developers also use Gupshup.”

The Gupshup-Cisco Spark partnership comes just as Cisco announced another partnership with IBM, integrating its cloud solutions with IBM’s Watson analytics platform.

This means that developers building advanced bots on the Gupshup platform for Cisco Spark will be able to incorporate artificial intelligence and natural-language processing capabilities by connecting the bots to Watson. The relationship is complimentary with Watson telling bots what to do.

Sheth predicts bots will replace what apps now do.

“Everything we do on a website or an app will be repurposed into a bot. Mobile devices are already ubiquitous, and bots will become more ubiquitous than apps. Bots will impact more aspects of our daily life than websites or apps ever did,” he said.

“While websites and apps made humans behave like computers, bots will make computers behave more like humans. As more developers build bots, the space will become more crowded and bot search engines, bot stores and bot reviews will begin to emerge.”