Cisco Takes a Page from Twitter to Compete in Collaboration

Cisco Systems is close to integrating its Jabber instant messaging and collaboration tool into its WebEx Connect SAAS suite. The networking giant is also considering adding a Twitter-like status update tool to the cloud computing suite. Cisco aims to better compete with Microsoft, IBM and Google in the collaboration software space.

Cisco Systems is putting the finishing touches on integrating its Jabber instant messaging assets into its WebEx Connect suite and will likely add a Twitter-like status update tool to that suite, a company official told eWEEK June 30.

Cisco WebEx Connect is a SAAS (software as a service) collaboration platform. The software, which Cisco hosts on its servers and sends through the cloud to users upon their request, lets workers all over the world view presentations at the same time while chatting via phone.

The application lets users send IMs to colleagues across companies; launch WebEx meetings from a Web chat; share documents and discussions in team wikis; and access applications through business widgets. For example, users can add a WebEx Connect plug-in to their Google iGoogle page to access their online meetings.

Later in summer or early fall 2009, Cisco will replace the existing AOL IM client back-end with the Jabber IM technology, said Alex Hadden-Boyd, director of marketing for the collaboration software group at Cisco. Cisco gained those software assets when it acquired Jabber in September 2008.

Adding a SAAS e-mail client to WebEx Connect is also in the works. This technology comes from Cisco's August 2008 purchase of PostPath, which makes e-mail and calendaring features that aim to compete with Microsoft's Exchange e-mail server and Outlook e-mail client.

IM and e-mail tools are table-stakes communications applications in the online world, but Cisco is also weighing more modern tools, including a status update feature that would let team workers update each other in real time within the WebEx Connect framework. This tool would be similar to the popular Twitter microblog service.

Hadden-Boyd declined to say when this feature might come to fruition, adding that it "is definitely part of our long-term plans. We think it's natural for us to go there."

*Interestingly, Jabber is based on the XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) communication protocol, which is what Twitter used to propel data across the Web before switching to HTTP.

Still, Cisco would be likely to build such a tool rather than acquire an enterprise microblogging startup such as Yammer, Socialcast or (Cisco did use to enable users at its recent Cisco Partner Summit to communicate).