Cisco Takes a Page from Twitter to Compete in Collaboration - Page 2

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Gartner analyst David Mario Smith told eWEEK Cisco is missing the social features enterprise workers have come to expect from collaboration suites, making a Twitter-like tool an important play. The company should also consider some form of content management functionality, Smith said.

Forrester Research analyst Rob Koplowitz said he believes social features are a foregone conclusion for Cisco: "As more social capabilities like communities and microblogs come online, Cisco will become even more competitive."

E-mail, IM, presence, Web conferencing and wiki tools comprise the core of most of the collaboration software platforms today, so it is clear that Cisco intends WebEx Connect to be the beachhead in its attack on not only e-mail incumbents Microsoft and IBM, but also newer players such as Google. Google makes Google Apps, a SAAS suite of e-mail and other applications it hosts on its own servers.

Cisco Senior Vice President Doug Dennerline hinted at the Cisco Live conference June 30 that the company may develop a service that would allow business users to create documents they could draft and share through WebEx Connect, so it is clear Cisco is carefully considering this. Koplowitz added:

"Whether they invest in productivity applications or not, they are becoming more viable as a collaboration vendor. We have to remember that Cisco has proven to be quite good at integrating acquired technology and has the resources to either build or acquire to quickly fill gaps. Over the past year they have signaled that they are serious about competing in collaboration. "

Through all of this, Cisco has made a point of extending WebEx Connect to mobile devices for corporate road warriors who need to collaborate with colleagues and partners while roving from state to state or even country to country.

In January, Cisco enabled the Cisco WebEx Meeting Center collaboration application to run on Apple's iPhone 3G smartphone and the iPod Touch. This feature has been upgraded to support the iPhone OS 3.0 and allows users to invite people to join a WebEx conference from their iPhones.

Cisco in July will also begin allowing users to attend WebEx meetings on 3G smartphone browsers, including RIM BlackBerrys, Nokia devices and Samsung BlackJacks.

Ultimately, Cisco's collaboration enhancements show that Cisco is becoming an increasingly compelling alternative to the traditional players in the space, Koplowitz said.

Still, Smith said while Cisco may eventually build up a collaboration suite comparable to those of Microsoft or IBM in terms of technology firepower, it will lag behind those two "titans" in market share.

*Correction: This story corrects an earlier version to note that Twitter no longer uses the XMPP communication protocol.