Cisco Taking on Google in Hosted E-Mail

Cisco is expanding its collaboration portfolio today with a series of new products for video, e-mail, voice and instant messaging. The new offerings build on the networking giant’s existing portfolio, but also introduce new technologies developed out of the acquisitions of open source instant-messaging vendor Jabber and Linux-based e-mail firm PostPath in 2008.

Among the new products is Cisco’s (NASDAQ: CSCO) entry into the hosted e-mail sector, signaling a new competitor to Google’s Gmail as Cisco aims to take share in the enterprise collaboration market.

Officially called Cisco WebEx Mail, the new hosted e-mail solution is built on the Linux-powered PostPath technology that Cisco acquired last year for $215 million. WebEx Mail is interoperable with Microsoft’s Outlook, and includes support for mobile devices.

Cisco has been dropping hints for several months that a cloud-based hosted e-mail service was in the works. In March, the firm introduced cloud-based e-mail security services.

Cisco is now also introducing its first full-scale integration of the instant-messaging technology it acquired from Jabber in 2008. Jabber is the lead commercial sponsor behind the open source Jabber XMPP protocol for instant messaging and presence awareness.

Jabber XMPP-based messaging and awareness are now part of Cisco’s Unified Presence 8.0 product. Unified Presence leverages both XMPP and the SIP/SIMPLE protocol that is commonly used in VoIP systems for messaging.

The Unified Presence system is an add-on to Cisco’s Unified Communications (UC) efforts, which are also being updated today to version 8.0, the first major upgrade to the platform since the 7.0 release a year ago. At the time of the UC 7.0 release, Dave Knight, Cisco’s director of product management for collaborative software told that Jabber would be integrated into Cisco’s collaboration products, which the company accomplished with today’s release.

UC 8.0 includes new end-point support for video and Wi-Fi-enabled IP phones, as well connectivity support for mobile devices and smartphones. With UC 8.0, Cisco is also opening up with new deployment options beyond its traditional on-premise solution to include both a pure cloud-based and a hybrid on-premise/cloud solution.

Part of the renewed collaboration push from Cisco is about expanding its social-media offerings. One of the new social solutions is called Cisco Show and Share, a video system intended to help enterprises organize, share and collaborate on video content. The Cisco Pulse service is a complement to the platform and aims to provide dynamic tagging of information so that content and content owners can be identified and connected too across an organization.

Cisco is also expanding its TelePresence video-conferencing offerings. Among the new solutions is a TelePresence Directory that enables users to find and schedule other TelePresence rooms and set up meetings faster than before.

Cisco’s TelePresence unit could be in for a big boost with the pending $3 billion acquisition of Tandberg. That deal is not a sure thing, as a group of Tandberg shareholders has balked at the terms of the transaction. Cisco’s CEO John Chamber shot back last week during a conference call, arguing that he Cisco is offering Tandberg investors a fair premium, and saying that he expects the deal to close.

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