Cisco and Google Bring WebEx to Chromebooks

By Joe Rizzo March 19, 2014

On Tuesday morning it was announced that Google and Cisco would be working together to bring more collaboration options to the Chromebook. In a blog posting by Saswat Panigrahi, who is the product manager, Chrome for business, he wrote that Chromebooks are great devices for collaborating from anywhere, any time and that Google is adding another tool for businesses to connect on the go.

The product that he is talking about is Cisco WebEx. It is a Cisco acquisition that provides on-demand collaboration, online meeting, web conferencing and video conferencing applications. Its products include Meeting Center, Training Center, Event Center,Support Center, Sales Center, MeetMeNow, PCNow, WebEx AIM Pro Business Edition, WebEx WebOffice, and WebEx Connect. All WebEx products are part of the Cisco collaboration portfolio.

Rajen Sheth and Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's collaboration technology group, demonstrated the interoperability between Google Apps and Cisco WebEx. This included the ability to join a WebEx meeting from a Google Calendar item.

Sheth also mentioned that Google would be integrating Cisco Unified Communications (UC) technology into Google Apps. The goal is to be able to join a WebEx meeting directly from Calendar. An instant meeting could also be started from Contacts or the Gmail People widget.

Something that does seem to make this association a little strange is the fact that Google does have a product called Hangouts. This basically competes with WebEx in areas such as video conferencing, IM, audio chats, and Web meetings.

In a press conference that was webcast after yesterday morning’s presentation, Sheth and Trollope agreed that it is inevitable that companies of the size and scope of Cisco and Google have overlapping and competing products. The feeling is that although they have competing products it should not cancel their opportunities to partner in ways that they consider mutually beneficial and complementary.

Although WebEx is hosted on the cloud, due to the fact that users are requires to download browser plug-in extensions so that some code can run locally on Windows, or Mac OS computers, WebEx is not able to run on Chromebooks today.

 Chromebooks run Chrome OS, so Cisco will rework a chunk of the WebEx functionality for HTML 5 so that it can run without the need for plug-ins. Google will also have to build some extensions on the Chromebook side.

Another way of looking at this alliance is as a tag team effect between Cisco and Google to better compete against Microsoft and its Office 365 cloud collaboration and email suite. This can be seen by looking at the fact that last week Cisco unveiled a suite of new and improved video conferencing products intended to compete with Microsoft Lync.

While the executives at both companies are discussing the benefits of this collaboration, there has been no mention of a due date when the WebEx version for Chromebooks will be available.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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