Cisco Bulks Up WebEx, Jabber Offerings To Push Beyond PC-Based Collaboration

Collaboration is a major priority for Cisco, which is organizing its go-to-market approach around the idea that solutions have to be mobile, social, visual and virtual, according to Richard McLeod, senior director, collaboration sales in Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization.

"The days focused on a monolithic stack of Win-Tel solutions are rapidly going away," McLeod told CRN in an interview earlier this month. "And over 70 percent of workers in the next two years will be totally mobile. So to have your work follow you and your capabilities follow you is phenomenal."

Cisco's collaboration business -- a bright spot throughout Cisco's restructuring this past year -- is expected to be an $8 billion contributor for the networking giant, which is showing off the WebEx and Jabber updates this week in Miami, the site of its annual Cisco Collaboration Summit.

For WebEx, Cisco has updated the software to support HD video and tighter interoperability with Cisco TelePresence products, as well as two-way video with Cisco's own Cius tablet and both the Apple iPad and iPhone. IT administrators are also now able to use a single identity across all of Cisco's WebEx products when they assign policy.

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Cisco has also added a set of common APIs to the WebEx platform to better integrate third-party applications. The launch further includes WebEx Basic, which is a free version of the software supporting up to three participants, will be available in the first quarter of 2012, and offer basic VoIP audio, standard video, IM, presence and desktop sharing functions, as well as 250 MB of storage.

For Jabber, the presence-, voice- and video-loaded UC application Cisco launched in March, Cisco now offers a free-to-download Web brewer plug-in that puts Jabber on most Web browers and Windows- or Mac-based OS devices. The goal, according to Cisco, is to more easily embed Cisco UC functions into the ways business users access the Web, from PCs or mobile devices.

The Jabber release also has an app development advance: a software developer kit (SDK) for Jabber to enable development of collaboration-centric Web applications. The new Jabber Developer Program is a specific offering within Cisco's Developer Network, and Cisco is already offering sample codes, videos and a dedicated community forum.

The WebEx and Jabber updates are powered using Cisco's Collaboration Cloud, which also supports the updates Cisco made to its telepresence portfolio in late October.

McLeod added that Cisco will be adding channel specializations specific to collaboration early in the new year. Collaboration, he said, has the potential to be a $42 billion opportunity for the channel -- an opportunity that multiplies by factors of two and three when services are layered in.

"It's a market that is rich with opportunity and massive in terms of the partner consulting opportunity," he said. "[For partners], it builds on all of their skills sets."