Cisco Readies WebEx, Jabber for 'Post-PC' Era

Cisco is making it easier for businesses to use its WebEx and Jabber communications platforms on a variety of mobile devices and through cloud-based applications.

Cisco Systems is looking to grow the capabilities of its collaboration offerings-including WebEx and Jabber-to address the mobile trends of what company executives agree is the "post-PC" era.

At the Cisco Collaboration Summit 2011 event in Miami Nov. 16, company officials announced enhancements to WebEx and Jabber to enable users to leverage the new technologies-from the deluge of mobile devices to the growth of cloud-based applications-that are coming into the enterprise. The enhancements are in line with where interest in the business and tech worlds in heading, according to Michael Smith, director of collaboration product marketing at Cisco.

"The innovation ... is much more in mobile and cloud," Smith told eWEEK, adding that the focus of communications is becoming less about the PC and more about people and their devices.

With WebEx, Cisco is looking to expand its reach beyond just the online meeting itself, and into a technology that touches the entire lifecycle of a meeting-from the preparation leading up to it, to the meeting itself, to follow-up tasks afterward, according to Raj Gossain, vice president of product management for the Collaboration Software Group at Cisco.

Through the enhanced WebEx Meetings spaces, users can collaborate on files and presentations in a real-time fashion from their mobile devices or PCs, see who is available to meet and communicate with them through instant messaging to prepare for a meeting, conduct it and then follow up, according to Cisco. Users also can schedule meetings and share documentation-from agendas to notes to recordings-before, during and after the meeting.

Cisco also is adding support for its own Cius tablet and Apple's iPhone to WebEx (which already supports Apple's iPad). Voice over IP also is now available on the iPhone and iPad. WebEx employees using the Cius or Apple devices also can now more easily connect to meetings that are using Cisco's TelePresence immersive video conferencing technologies by pushing a single button. Further integration will include Jabber and Cisco's Quad enterprise social networking platform, and common APIs will allow for integration of third-party applications such as CRM.

The beta version of the enhanced WebEx offering will begin in December, with general availability scheduled for the first quarter of 2012, according to Cisco.

Cisco also will offer the WebEx Basic Edition, a free version of the collaboration technology that will support up to three participations in a meeting and offers users VOIP audio, standard video, instant messaging, presence, desktop sharing and 250MB of storage. The Basic Edition, which will be available in 2012, is a way to "make WebEx meetings more available," with the hope that people trying the free version will see the benefits and migrate to paid versions, Gossain told eWEEK.

The paid versions of WebEx offer such features as high-definition video and more than 250MB of storage.

Regarding Jabber, Cisco is offering a new Web plug-in that will let users embed Cisco unified communications (UC) technologies into Web browsers of interconnected devices, enabling Jabber to be available from a business' Web-based applications, such as finance or CRM, Smith said. In addition, a new software development kit will make all the Jabber collaboration features accessible via the cloud, Smith said. Using the SDK, developers can create Web-based applications that incorporate features in the UC platform, such as presence, voice, video and IM.

Developers can get support in building the Jabber-based applications through the Jabber Development Program, a portal and program found within the Cisco Developer Network. In the portal, developers will find sample codes, instructional videos and an online community, according to the company.

The SDK is available now for the Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers for Windows and Mac operating systems. Smith said a second version of the SDK, which will come out in the first quarter 2012, will include support for high-definition video in the applications based on Jabber.