Both Cisco and IBM have been on a partnership binge lately, so it seems inevitable that the two giant tech companies would eventually find a reason to partner with each other.
On Thursday, they announced that Cisco’s Slack competitor, Spark, as well as its online meeting service, WebEx, will be integrated with IBM’s new smart email system, Verse, and IBM Connections (also a Slack competitor, but a little bit more like Yammer, which itself is most like a Facebook news feed for internal company use).
The two companies are going to marry these products so that they work together and then add Watson, IBM’s machine-learning technology, to it all.
The idea is that employees will save time by having Watson provide them with insights and information based on the context of the conversations they are having, and by studying their work history. It might, for instance, surface relevant documents or apps, or make suggestions of other employees to connect with.
Interestingly, on the IBM side, the deal with Cisco was struck by Inhi Cho Suh, who is now the general manager of IBM’s collaboration business unit. Cho is a rising star at IBM who orchestrated IBM’s unusual purchase of the Weather Company in a deal said to be worth about $2 billion. That was in her last role, when she was a vice president in charge of acquisitions in IBM’s all-important, $18 billion-a-year analytics unit.
The new partnership will help Cisco and IBM and their giant sales forces go after Microsoft, which is also unrolling smart tools as fast as it can under CEO Satya Nadella’s mission to reinvent productivity. It also targets Slack, which seems to be on an unstoppable roll.