Here’s Cisco’s Latest Challenge to Google and Microsoft
Cisco is jumping on the digital whiteboard bandwagon.
The networking technology giant said Tuesday that it would debut a high-tech version of the traditional whiteboard dubbed the Spark Board that will let people scribble their notes and organize meetings on a big, digital screen.
Like those products, Cisco’s Spark Board has a 55-inch touch screen with a 4K resolution, a 4K camera, and a digital pen.
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While Google’s Jamboard costs $6,000 and Microsoft’s Surface Hub (at least, the 55-inch model) costs $9,000, the Spark Board will sell for $5,000. However, customers will have to pay $200 dollar a month to get access to the whiteboard’s full features, like the ability to share digital sketches with colleagues via the Internet. A 70-inch Spark Board model will cost $10,000.
In an interview with Fortune, Cisco (CSCO) senior vice president and general manager of its cloud collaboration business unit Jens Meggers emphasized that the company’s Spark work collaboration software is the brain that powers the new whiteboard.
Similar to how Google’s Jamboard is tailored to work with Google’s (GOOG) lineup of business apps and how the Surface Hub is designed to work best with Microsoft’s (MSFT) Office software, Cisco’s new device is best suited for Cisco software—specifically Cisco’s Spark work collaboration software.
Cisco Spark users can hook up their Spark app to the digital whiteboard and use the app to interact with it. People can draw on the whiteboard during a meeting, save the drawing to their Spark accounts, and access the drawings from their phones or computers. They can also manipulate and update the whiteboard drawings from the Spark app.
People will be unable to install apps onto the digital whiteboard as it’s not a general computer, Meggers explained. However, people can connect their computers to use it as an extra monitor for their devices. The device can also connect to other Cisco video conferencing systems and be manipulated via the Spark app.
If people want to share the whiteboard drawings to others without Spark accounts, they can save them as an image or PDF file, but those non-Spark users will be unable to modify the document on the fly.
Cisco is using the new digital whiteboard as a way to get people to sign up to its Spark work collaboration software, which the company has been promoting heavily over the past year.
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The networking giant faces tough competition in the work collaboration space, with companies like Microsoft, Google, Slack, and Atlassian (TEAM) all selling similar services they each claim is the superior choice.
Cisco has not revealed how much its Spark software has contributed to the company’s overall sales.