The past few weeks saw Cisco make some very interesting acquisitions. It acquired Five Across — a small social networking company, for an undisclosed sum. To me, it just meant that perhaps Cisco is just planning to use them for some internal innovation work, much like the Dell’s Ideastorm.
Cisco’s acquisition of WebEx for for $3.2 billion is more strategic and it would have implications for the industry in general and to some players in particular.
Cisco and some of their competitors like Avaya have been aggressive in promoting the Unified Communications concept, something which has been talked about for the last five years. While they have made strides, the vendors ignored Web collaboration, which helped WebEX make very impressive strides. This space heated up with Microsoft announcing their Live platform, and hence it was only a matter of time, before Cisco had to square off with Microsoft.This acquisition sends a clear signal that Cisco is aiming to take the leadership position.
WebEx with more than 2 million users offers their technology as an on-demand platform, which is attractive to the SMB business. So, it would be interesting to see whether Cisco saw in WebEx an opportunity to strengthen their SMB offerings along with Linksys or to integrate WebEx technology as part of the communication and conferencing solution offerings like Telepresence. It could perhaps do both, given that WebEx has a distinct offering for SMBs.
Where Cisco is likely to score is in its ability to blend the social networking aspect with collaboration which could include calendaring, file sharing, and project management.
This collaboration space hence would see some intense competition with Microsoft (Sharepoint), IBM (Notes), and some weaker players like Citrix (Go to meeting). Microsoft has also upped its offerings with its acquisition of TellMe.
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