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Cisco Unveils Mobile Content Delivery Device

While some financial analysts are predicting stilted consumer spending, the big technology guns are focusing on improving the performance of products consumers might buy when the supposedly stale economy refreshes. But that hasn't stopped companies from eyeing the B2B sector with some interest. In fact, businesses are buying mobile communications devices for their employees.

Firms like Cisco Systems Inc. realize this. The networking titan Wednesday released an appliance that can help businesses offer multiple types of Web content over personal digital assistants (PDAs) and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phones, and in the process, leveled its competitive barrel at long-time rival Nortel Networks.

Released under its AVVID umbrella, (Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data), the Cisco CTE 1400 Series Content Transformation Engine is a rack-unit appliance designed to convert HTML and XML data formats appropriate for client devices with special display requirements.

And just what will such a device help create? Cisco's expects CTE will mobilize intranet and extranet applications such as sales automation and e-commerce for corporate employees. CTE works by accepting requests from handsets or PDAs and requests the content from back-end servers. The Cisco CTE functions as a reverse-proxy, acting as a Web server to the client device and as a client device to the Web server. The device transforms the content properly for each device, sending information formatted to fit the screen and memory requirements of the specific requesting device.

The Cisco CTE works seamlessly with routers, switches, server load balancers, content engines, Web servers, firewalls, virtual private network (VPN) solutions and IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN products to provide a seamless, high performance solution.

One analyst who has been briefed on CTE testified: "The Cisco CTE revolutionizes the way that customers deal with Web content," said Joel Conover, senior analyst at Current Analysis Inc. "Customers can leverage the Cisco CTE to seamlessly transform their Web content for client devices. With the introduction of this solution, Cisco is throwing down the gauntlet and challenging competitor's claims in the multi- and mobile-device content delivery space."

Moreover, Conover told InternetNews.com that he sees Cisco's play as one aggressive answer to Nortel's Personal Internet Initiative, announced last January. He called it a different approach to serving and identifying content to the nearest possible server for smooth delivery.

"This ought to be a wake-up call," Conover said. "Their [Nortel's] solution depends on the end user to define different policies for different content. CTE defines the policies for them for the exisiting content with what is called style sheets. It's a more streamlined approach. I can see there being less administrative overhead with CTE."

But CTE isn't just for big business. Indeed, though it will be widely available this month for a hefty price tag of $69,995, CTE has already been tested by one technologically-savvy campus -- Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, Calif., which has been a wireless campus for more than two years.

The prestigious school recently upgraded its wireless network to include the Aironet 350 Series wireless LAN (WLAN) products and started providing academic content to all Net-ready devices, including PDAs, Pocket PCs, WAP and IP phones, for faculty and students. The school has been using the CTE to ensure that its students have ubiquitous access to law school information online from their personal devices.

To be sure, this is more of a B2O play, as in business-to-organization, but it is not difficult to imagine the possibility of Cisco selling a number of the pricey devices to giants such as Honeywell, or GE, where scads of employees crave access to audio and visual content from personal devices.

Supportive of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) sessions and most virtual private networks, CTE can be quickly installed into any network infrastructure without requiring any changes to hardware or back-end software. Each Cisco CTE supports up to 10,000 simultaneous users and 1,400 active sessions per unit.