Cisco 'doubles down' on collaboration with 61 new products

Investment, shown with a wide range of new products, is 'huge,' said one analyst

Cisco Systems Inc. massively expanded its collaboration technologies portfolio on Monday with the announcement of 61 new products.

This wave of new products includes a corporate-grade hosted e-mail system called Cisco WebEx Mail, a social networking application, and a video system to help groups share and search video content.

The range demonstrates Cisco's interest in integrating and expanding new video-related technologies with more traditional collaboration tools such as instant messaging and presence, Cisco officials said.

One new tool, a Cisco Intercompany Media Engine focuses on allowing various companies to share business-to-business communications over any IP network.

The products are designed in part to make it easier for companies to incorporate content from video and other media produced on all kinds of devices, from expensive telepresence videoconferencing systems to handheld Flip video cameras, as well as photos and recordings taken from smartphones.


Allen Cohen, vice president of enterprise solutions, said told Computerworld that today's new products and Cisco's recent agreement to buy videoconferencing vendor Tandberg for $3 billion demonstrate that "Cisco is doubling down [its investment] on collaboration."

Cohen said he feels Cisco "intends on doing this," referring to a completion of the Tandberg purchase, despite a blog post by Cisco Chief Strategy Officer Ned Hooper on Nov. 2 that suggested fiscal prudence might prevent the deal from being completed.

One analyst, Zeus Kerravala at Yankee Group Inc., said the Tandberg deal "has to go through just because video is too important to let it fall through." Considering the broad range of products that Cisco announced today, Kerravala called Cisco's investment in collaboration "huge."

Of all 61 products, perhaps Cisco's new WebEx Mail product will have the biggest impact, Kerravala said, because of the industry-wide move to cloud computing and Cisco's moves into cloud computing. WebEx Mail prepares Cisco for when e-mail moves more fully to the cloud architecture in 2012, Kerravala said, giving the company a shot at taking on Microsoft Corp.

Also important, Kerravala said, is Cisco's new Unified Communications version 8.0, which adds new support for a wide range of endpoints, including more smartphones, and new video and Wi-Fi-ready Cisco Unified IP phones. That software will help connect the diverse array of devices that produce video.

"The value of a network is proportional to the number of nodes, and there are a lot of nodes out there but they are just not connected now," Kerravala said.

Cisco didn't provide pricing or shipping information for the new products.

WebEx Mail will interoperate with Microsoft Outlook and support mobile devices. Built on technology acquired from PostPath, it will allow each user a 25GB mailbox, Cohen said. It will also support firewalls and other security measures.

Another new product, Cisco Show and Share, allows organizations to create and manage video by allowing recording, editing and sharing with the ability to add tags and comments. Users can also upload speech-to-text transcripts for easy video searches.

The company's new enterprise social software application is called Enterprise Collaboration Platform and will accommodate real-time voice, instant messaging and video communications, not just documents, Cohen said.

A search platform called Cisco Pulse will allow dynamic tagging of content as it passes through a network, giving users the ability to locate and rapidly connect with information and experts, which is seen as especially useful within multinational corporations, Cisco said.

Two video transcoders, the Media Experience Engine 3500 and 5600, are designed to allow any content to be shared across a network to any endpoint. The 5600 will allow Cisco Telepresence devices to interoperate with videoconferencing devices from other companies.

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