Cisco Spark Board: Revolutionary or Evolutionary?

Feb 07, 2017

By now, everyone associated with the unified communications and collaboration industry is aware of the unprecedented product launch event on January 24 from which Cisco  Spark Board, a next generation endpoint purpose-built for the cloud-based Cisco Spark collaboration service, was unveiled. The event itself was unprecedented because Cisco felt that a solo product merited such attention, rather than as part of a bigger release.

Cisco Spark Board is a 3-in-1 device, supporting voice, visual and data collaboration. The product features an edge LED LCD display capable of 4k video resolution, initially available in a 55” option with a 70” model available later this year. Its capacitive touch screen supports high quality white board and annotation, while audio and video are enhanced via an incorporated 12-element microphone array and a camera with an 89-degree field of view, respectively. The full Cisco Spark Board data sheet can be found here.

Rowan Trollope, Senior Vice President & General Manager of Cisco Internet of Things and Applications, conducted the unveiling during an informative and entertaining keynote presentation. Keynote points of emphasis were as follows: 

  • Video conferencing technology is installed in less than 5% of meeting rooms; those that are outfitted are equipped with disparate, outdated technology
  • Meeting rooms technology is commonly frustrating and difficult to use
  • Sharing content both locally and with remote meeting participants is inefficient
  • All of this equates to poor user experiences and ineffective meetings

Frost & Sullivan fully agrees with those points.

As he discussed the market’s needs, Cisco Spark Board capabilities and conducted demonstrations, Trollope repeatedly characterized the new product as revolutionary. The term “revolutionary” got me thinking—I did not agree. Upon further research, I found that many of the capabilities built into Cisco Spark Board have been available in competing products for several years, specifically wireless sharing, capacitive touch, 4k video, the ability to participate in annotation from mobile devices, multi-direction mics and speakers, etc.

A large part of Cisco Spark Board’s uniqueness is the packaging. Cisco allocated massive resources to assemble all of the aforementioned features and more into a single product. While competitors offer a number of products that are similarly positioned for meeting spaces, none incorporate all the same capabilities in a single product. Cisco has also put unique touches on a number of the features and components in Cisco Spark Board that are not supported or inconsistently supported by other products, such as: intelligent proximity that notifies Cisco Spark Board about which users are present to facilitate wireless pairing and access; automated active speaker tracking; auto-framing of participants in the camera’s field of view; co-annotation among Cisco Spark Board and mobile device users; and more.    

With Cisco Spark Board, the company is offering an endpoint that is purpose-built for its Cisco Spark cloud collaboration software service, which supports video and web conferencing functionality, persistent chat, team spaces, screen and file sharing, presence, and more. A number of competitors are building interactive collaboration endpoints for their own as well as for third-party web and conferencing software, such as Microsoft Skype Room System. However, no competing software platform in the team collaboration space, such as Slack, HipChat, Circuit, Glip, Teams, or others, has an optimized interactive display (proprietary or third-party) that is anything near that of Cisco Spark Board.    

Much of the functionality in Cisco Spark Board is not truly new to the market, but this is not a negative fact. The product does indeed represent several big evolutionary steps forward for room-based meetings. The comprehensive capabilities simplify the room-based meeting experience through a slick all-in-one device that offers superior ease of use, high quality audio, video and content performance, and tight iOS integration, all wrapped up in Cisco’s hallmark highly secure enterprise-grade packaging. I do believe the unique combination of Cisco Spark Board and powerful multimedia Cisco Spark cloud-based software has great potential to change the traditionally frustrating and overall poor room-based meeting experience.  


Category : Cloud, Enterprise

Robert Arnold


Sixteen + years of experience in enterprise communications markets. Particular expertise in: Competitive and market intelligence, Market trend analysis and forecasting, Solutions development, marketing, sales and service support strategies.

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