Cue The Collaboration: Cisco Updates Jabber, Telepresence System

Cisco Tuesday unveiled several updates to its collaboration and videoconferencing portfolios, including expanded features for its Jabber UC application and a new Telepresence room system.

Collaboration is a key focus for Cisco and one that according to Richard McLeod, senior director of collaboration sales, is a potential $42 billion opportunity for the Cisco channel in the coming years and maybe three times that when partner-driven services are added on.

Collaboration, which under Cisco's definition includes everything from virtual desktop infrastructure to videoconferencing, is expected to be an $8 billion business for $43 billion Cisco based on current growth rates.

One of the portfolio's best advantages for Cisco solution providers, McLeod said, is that collaboration sales pull through data networking and infrastructure products needed for network upgrades and tackle bring-your-own-device-related challenges for enterprises.

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"We see this as expanding the market opportunity for partners," McLeod said. "All of this is starting to become incredibly mainstream now. You're no longer bound to your desk, and you have to be able to use applications and video and do these things on any type of device from wherever you are."

One of the products in Cisco's collaboration portfolio is the Jabber application, which has seen continuous updates from Cisco since its release a year ago.

In November 2011, Cisco added a free-to-download Web browser plug-in for putting Jabber on most Web browsers and Windows and Mac-based OS devices. The goal, as Cisco described it at the time, was to more easily embed various Cisco UC functions such as voice and video into various Web-accessible devices and solve bring-your-own-device challenges as flexibly as possible.

Tuesday's update extends Jabber's reach to Apple's iPad and Windows-based devices, meaning Cisco now has a Jabber option for Apple iOs, Android, Mac, Windows and RIM BlackBerry environments, not to mention its own Cius tablet. Jabber's video connectivity comes from the Movi video soft client Cisco acquired when it bought Tandberg in 2010.

"What most of our competitors have is some subset of that and you have to use two and frequently three different applications to accomplish what Jabber can accomplish," McLeod said.

Jabber releases can be deployed on-premise or as cloud-based applications, and the Windows and iPad versions are expected in the second quarter of 2012. The software is included in Cisco's Unified Workspace Licensing package, according to McLeod.

Cisco also debuted a new Telepresence system, the TX9000, which includes visual elements such as eye contact enhancement among participants and can support 1,080p, 60-frame-per-second resolution and 1,080p 30-fps data sharing. It accommodates six users, and the TX9200 version can expand to 18 users with an additional table. As in Cisco's other Telepresence wares, it offers one-button controls for most videoconferencing functions, and can natively support conferencing with SIP, BFCP, H.264 and Telepresence Interoperability Protocol-based video systems.

Cisco also maintains that the TX9000 consumes 20 percent less bandwidth than previous Cisco video room models and cuts down on setup time and maintenance by not requiring any specialized lighting or audio.

List pricing for the TX9000 starts at $299,000, according to Cisco. McLeod said that the TX9000 isn't intended to replace any existing Cisco video products, such as the similar Cisco TelePresence T3.

NEXT: Cisco Partner Says Strategy Resonates

Bob Olwig, vice president of business strategy and marketing at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based Cisco Gold partner, said Cisco's end-to-end strategy for attacking the collaboration, video and bring-your-own-device opportunities is appealing to customers.

"The story resonates quite well with enterprise customers that are trying to manage all of these mobile devices -- all the smartphones and tablets," Olwig told CRN. "The next question that comes up quickly is the network infrastructure to support that device, and how's that managed, and is it secure. I think Cisco does a good job answering all three of those questions."

The bring-your-own-device issue comes up in every one of his CIO conversations, Olwig said. Last fall, World Wide Technology created a new practice within its overall security practice to address those customer pain points.

"We developed a whole methodology and assessment and workshop approach, not unlike what we've done for data center and virtualization," Olwig explained. "But this has been the most popular and sought-after technology discussion I think World Wide has ever had. The proliferation of smartphones and tablets mean that CIOs and IT directors feel a sense of urgency. A lot of them feel that for their enterprises to be successful and attract the new generation of talent, they have to get this right, and a lot of them are worried they aren't prepared for it."

Olwig said Jabber and Cisco's Telepresence are strong products but he expects Cisco to continue to add more features to its collaboration portfolio, particularly in mobile device management. World Wide relies on a mix of smaller vendors, such as MobileIron, to complement Cisco bring-your-own-device-centric products such as the Cisco Identity Services Engine.

"ISE is a good product and getting a lot of interest, and we work with two or three different partners for mobile device management features with Cisco as the anchor in terms of the underlying network infrastructure," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if Cisco organically adds [mobile device management features] or makes the type of acquisition they've historically had success with."

Among various collaboration and UC tools, video is expected to be a hot market throughout the next few years. Infonetics Research recently pegged the enterprise spend on videoconferencing and telepresence hardware to be a cumulative $22 billion from 2012 to 2016.

The space has been a magnet for consolidation, including Cisco's 2010 acquisition of Tandberg, Polycom's 2011 acquisition of Hewlett-Packard's visual collaboration portfolio, Logitech's 2009 acquisition of LifeSize and, most recently, Avaya's $230 million acquisition of Radvision.