It’s easy to dismiss Cisco Spark as yet another Slack casualty, but let’s analyze the situation from a slightly different angle.
Cisco—a gigantic hardware manufacturer has been (largely by way of acquisitions) a key player in the unified communications (UC) space for a very long time.
For a variety of reasons, UC vendors have traditionally not paid much attention to the concept of group chat1 as a mode of collaboration, despite having over twenty years to internalize the value IRC, Campfire, and HipChat bring to technical teams, and despite having all the necessary infrastructure readily available (e.g. Jabber/XMPP rooms).
Until it was finally delivered to the masses by Slack, the concept of group chat serving the role of a communication hub, a nerve center for distributed teams has simply been ignored by big business.
This, by the way, is why it’s been historically so hard to start a Google Hangout—because the UC industry never quite figured out the concept of a “mission control center” where all things—including calls—originate.
The root cause for this is actually very clear: UC companies tend to be hardcore, reply-all email-driven enterprises—email, to them, is the mission control center.
This is why most UC solutions tend have mature and complex infrastructures, but simplistic—barebones, even—user interfaces.
In 2012, quite a few folks finally got tired of waiting for the Microsofts and the Googles of the world to build a sane real-time communication system for business. Dozens of startups raised capital (or pivoted) and embarked on the mission to make the world a better place by ridding it of internal email.
To help visualize this trend, we put together a “Chat Services Timeline”, available as a PDF. Notice the opening of the floodgates in 2013 and 2014.
Astonishingly, Cisco was one of those “startups“ that activated in 2012. The domain for Project Squared—Spark’s maiden name—was registered in December of 2012, before anyone has ever heard of Slack and before Atlassian realized that HipChat was something more than a “chatroom”.
This is important—Spark is getting murdered by Slack not because Cisco hurriedly realized that it needed to make a Slack clone and botched the effort. It’s getting murdered by Slack because Cisco, being a gigantic, hardware manufacturer, has a different relationship with time.
Spark may have virtually no user base today, and it may take several years to wedge its way into the enterprise (where Cisco already has a huge and enviable stronghold). For Cisco, taking several years to establish a loss leader is not a death sentence. In the end, Spark may well have the last laugh.
Now, where was I? Oh yes! I’m here to announce the Sameroom integration with Cisco Spark.
You can now configure real-time, bi-directional integrations between Spark rooms and “rooms” (channels, DMs, groups, etc) in Campfire, Chatter, Facebook Messenger, Fleep, Flowdock, Gitter, Hangouts, HipChat, IRC, Intercom, Jabber, Lync/Skype for Business, Skype, Slack, Socialcast, Telegram, and Twitter.
To get started, add your Spark account to Sameroom, along with accounts of the services you’d like to connect, and build Tubes or create Portals. We also strongly recommend adding your email address, so you can use that to sign in to Sameroom.
By the way, Spark is one of very few team chat services with an IFTTT integration. (There’s one for Zapier as well.) The IFTTT integration is immensely powerful—you can turn Spark into an RSS reader, get all tweets matching a search query, or notify the team when it’s tea time.