Cisco doubles down on collaboration with 61 new products

Among new products are enterprise e-mail and social networking software

Cisco Systems has massively expanded its portfolio of collaboration technologies, announcing 61 products, including a corporate-grade hosted e-mail system called Cisco WebEx Mail as well as a social networking application and a video system to help groups securely share video content and search capabilities.

The range of products shows 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, called the Intercompany Media Engine, focuses on allowing 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 in an interview 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 massive Tandberg purchase, despite a blog by Cisco Chief Strategy Officer Ned Hooper on Nov. 2 that suggested fiscal prudence might prevent the deal from being completed.

Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala 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, Kerravala called Cisco's overall investment in collaboration "huge."

Of the 61 products, Cisco's new WebEx Mail product will have the biggest impact, Kerravala said, because of the industrywide move into cloud computing. The e-mail system will put Cisco in a better position to compete with Microsoft for e-mail customers as e-mail moves more fully to the cloud architecture in 2012, Kerravala said.

Also important, Kerravala said, is Cisco's new Unified Communications version 8.0, which adds support for a wide range of endpoints, including more smartphones, 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 added.

Cisco didn't offer 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 services.

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

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

A new 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.

Two video transcoders, the Media Experience Engine 3500 and 5600, are designed to allow 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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Matt Hamblen

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