Cisco Rolls Out New Collaboration, UC Products


Cisco on Monday announced 60 new individual products across all areas of its collaboration and unified communications portfolio. Withe the new products, Cisco is attempting to bolster its video, networking and messaging capabilities using technology it gained through Jabber, PostPath, WebEx and other companies that Cisco acquired in the past few years.

The products, which Cisco President and CEO John Chambers plans to introduce at Cisco's Collaboration Summit in San Francisco Monday, also show Cisco entering such enterprise software categories as social media software and hosted email for the first time.

"Consumer-oriented instant messaging and other social things don't work for the enterprise environment," said Richard McLeod, Cisco's senior director of collaboration solutions for worldwide channels, in a briefing for reporters last week. "People want the speed and ubiquity of social networks but to be able to do that in a secure business environment."

Among the new products are Cisco TelePresence WebEx Engage, which combines telepresence video and WebEx conferencing, and TelePresence Directory, a Cisco-hosted cataloging and scheduling tool for users connected by Cisco TelePresence.

Then there's Cisco Intercompany Media Engine, a business-to-business IP communications platform, and an update to Cisco's Unified Communications System, whose version 8.0 adds support for video, Wi-Fi enabled Cisco IP phones and mobile devices like BlackBerry.

On the messaging front, Cisco is debuting Cisco WebEx Mail, which is the networking titan's first ever hosted e-mail product and confirms the long-held assumption that Cisco would become a player in the battle over cloud-based e-mail services.

It features native Microsoft Outlook support, AJAX Web 2.0 access and support for mobile device e-mail, and is built on technology Cisco gained through its August 2008 acquisition of PostPath. Cisco is further using technology acquired through Jabber to add federated presence management and instant messaging across its WebEx and Unified Presence product lines.

Finally, on the social networking software front, Cisco has several new product lines, including Cisco Show and Share, which helps users organize, tag, edit and share video messages, and Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform, an application that allows users to create team spaces, communities, wikis, customizable dashboards and Web 2.0 content.

In addition, there's Cisco Pulse, which allows users to tag and search for content as it moves around the network, and two video transcoding tools, Cisco Media Experience Engine 3500 and Media Experience Engine 5600, which include speech-to-text video transcription.

Cisco Pulse and Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform will be limited to U.S. and Canadian markets at launch, according to Cisco.

The overall goal, said McLeod, was to offer the fullest portfolio possible of collaboration products so that enterprises could focus on network architecture, not a collection of point products. The Monday announcements build on other collaboration and unified communications products Cisco debuted before its Partner Summit back in June.

"People don't want to invest in point products that don't interoperate with each other, so we've built everything from a Cisco perspective," McLeod explained. "It allows the customer to preserve the existing environment while moving into a much more collaborative world."

The products will also allow Cisco channel partners "unprecedented opportunities," McLeod suggested, in how they can upgrade existing enterprise architecture and add collaboration tools.

The new products are designed to go hand-in-hand with other recent Cisco architecture announcements like Borderless Networks and its ISR G2 router refresh.

Cisco will be offering VARs rebates and incentives on the new collaboration products through its Value Incentive Program (VIP), and provide training and other resources, McLeod said. Formal channel programs around WebEx Mail have not yet been announced, but he added WebEx Mail would go through VARs under a commission model and would not be available as a white label product, at least initially.

McLeod added that Cisco would continue to make new announcements related to collaboration, video and social networking in the new year. Cisco's planned $3 billion acquisition of Tandberg would play a role in those products, he said, but if the acquisition is unsuccessful -- a group of shareholders representing 24 percent of Tandberg's stock is currently attemping to block the deal -- Cisco will "move forward."