I met with Cisco's distinguished engineer Cullen Jennings for unified communications last week, where he showed me a new concept demo that lays out where Cisco is going with mobility and Unified Communications (UC). Think Google's Android
pro ject for the enterprise and you wouldn't be that far off.
Amongst other things, the demo shows a user on a multiparty video conference running off of his/her Cisco phone (that's right, Cisco phone). The sleek design, black background, and lack of keyboard looks remarkably like an Apple iPhone (not to be confused with the Cisco Iphone) complete with a touch interface. Users are shown as three talking heads, which I guess means there's a video camera embedded in there somewhere.
What's particularly cool is the transition between mobile device and PC. When the user enters into the office, he/she sets the phone down to the right of the PC's montor and then transfers the video call to their PC by "dusting" or swiping a finger across the phone's touch screen. The phone's image tracks the finger, moves off the device and onto the PC. The image now becomes active on the PC and the user continues with the video-call.
Once on the screen, the user launches a portal serving as a repository for all of communications of the project. This demo showed contacts, calendaring todos, relevant documents to the communications workspaces, and IM interactions in a single interface. Pretty slick
I think that concept demo coalesces a lot of what Cisco's been saying for some time and shows how the company hopes to become a major player in the enteprise application space.
- Cisco is serious about becoming the only company to play in the application and infrastructure space for both fixed and mobile networks.
- To do so they'll need to control the mobile device in some way. Like Jeff Spagnola, Cisco's vp of worldwide service provider marketing, noted in a blog everything starts with the mobile device. Cullen was pretty clear that Cisco was going to look very strongly at Google's Android Alliance. Personally, I think it's only a matter of time before they announce that they will join the group.
- In any, the investment Cisco made in SoonR, the remote access company, last month, makes even more sense. If Cisco is going to enable you to work anywhere then they need a technology that will enable you to access and sync with files on the network, exactly what's provided by SoonR's technology. .
- I also think there will be stronger Cisco-Google collaboration. Cisco and Google already work together on some level with Cisco providing Unified Messaging Express, a module that works with Google OneBox for Enterprise, Google's enterprise search engine to enable users to find scheduled conferences in MeetingPlace. Cisco will need to expand its search integration if it's to discover relevant documents into the its portal so expect greater cooperation with Google or a enterprise bookmarking/tagging engine.
- At the same time, there are critical applications in this mix that are sorely missing from Cisco's product set. Cullen acknowledged that integrating with enterprise calendaring all but implies having to work with Microsoft, for example. The same could be said for corporate e-mail. What wasn't said was that there could also be a very nifty integration with Google. Google and Cisco have extremely complementary application sets today in the enterprise (See table). Cisco remains dominant in voice and web conferencing. It offers video conferencing and high-end telepresence, obviously, but other providers, such as Tandberg and Polycom, have a stronger presence in the space. Not surprisingly, Cisco partners with those vendors as well. Within the IM space, Cisco has a SIP-based offer, but will be better served by its integration with Lotus SameTime that was recently announced. The SoonR investment gives it the file management capabilities.Google is dominant in search. It offers organization's calendaring, email and IM and desktop applications through Google for Business, but couldn't be considered dominant in any one of those areas. Video conferencing and voice for the enterprise isn't provided today nor is large scale Web conferencing.Together though they would make an incredible combination. At the desktop, users could be offered Google's Desktop or Lotus Symphony. Calendaring and email would be provided by Google or with Exchange integration. File management would be offered through Cisco's SoonR investment. With IM, enterprise could use Lotus Sametime or GTalk.Even better make GTalk and Cisco work together, similar to what GTalk has done for Asterisk. Search is supplied by Google while Cisco offers video voice and web conferencing.
- Finally, the bit about "dusting" definitely looks good on a marketing demo, but it'll be interesting to see Cisco implement it in practice. Even the Cisco engineers are wondering how they'll pull it off. "When the engineers saw that we just rolled our eyes," says Cullen, "We've got no work going on right now in that area."