(Bloomberg) -- With corporate workforces still reliant on virtual meetings -- and the delta variant delaying a return to the office -- videoconferencing rivals Google Meet and Cisco WebEx hope to make the process of logging in a little easier.
Google, part of Alphabet Inc., has agreed to support interoperability with Cisco Systems Inc. hardware devices. That means customers will be able to log into a Google meeting on a Cisco device and vice versa, Google said Wednesday in a blog post. The pact will help businesses that use multiple hosting platforms or have switched from one to the other.
The agreement suggests the start of a more cooperative era in the cutthroat conferencing market, where software providers have spent the last 18 months trying to undercut rivals in the hunt for more corporate users. Surging coronavirus cases due to the delta variant have foiled companies’ return-to-office plans, with some workers back in their cubicles and others logging in from home.
Google’s senior director of product management for Workspace, Sanaz Ahari, said the company will next try to sign pacts with other major videoconferencing providers to help users log in from more types of devices.
“We want to bring that magical low-friction experience to our customers,” Dave Citron, the director of product for Google Meet, said in an interview. There will be more to come from the strategic partnership with Cisco, he added.
Cisco, the one-time market leader in videoconferencing, has tried to beat back the rapid growth of Zoom Video Communications Inc., which has gone from a niche startup to part of the vocabulary of Covid lockdowns. It’s also facing renewed offerings from Microsoft Corp., which acquired Skype in 2011. The WebEx maker sees interoperability as a pathway to retain existing users. Google has its own challenges: Despite the strength of Gmail and other online services, Google Meet has failed to grab a huge market share during the pandemic.
The search-engine giant also unveiled a Google-branded all-in-one device designed for home offices and small corporate conference rooms. The 27-inch (69-centimeter) screen, called Desk 27, will make it easier to jump into video meetings and can also act as a second screen for a laptop. Google already works with manufacturers such as HP Inc. and Dell Technologies Inc. for its Chromebase all-in-one computers, and it launched a line of meeting hardware in 2020 called Series One.
Citron said the company has seen a lot more demand for its conferencing hardware because nearly half of its clients are redesigning their offices for hybrid work.
Google has also created a handbook for navigating the hybrid experience, which includes information on how to organize five common types of meetings. The company’s previously announced Spaces -- collaboration software that gives teams a hub where they can organize a project -- is now live. And Google will make it easier for bosses to ring their employees during the workday, with a new feature called Meet Calling.