Cisco just announced a new hosted email offer, WebEx Mail. at its collaboration summit. This isn't the first time that Cisco has entered the email business, but it does come at time when Cisco is moving to challenge Microsoft and IBM in broader collaboration space.
Similar to GoogleWave, WebEx Mail integrates all sort of content in what Ciso is calling the Se
mantic Inbox. The Semantic Inbox relies on " network-based intelligence that uses data mining to access relevant content and bring it into the email environment so you don't have to leave this for other screen," IMed Jon Arnold, an independent analyst, who is at their global collaboration summit where the software was shown. (See adjoining screen shot courtesy of Mr. Arnold.)
According to Arnold, this intelligence lets you group or search emails by topic. "You can hover over a person's name, and up pops their personal profile, along with a thread of your recent communications with them. It also shows presence, so you could jump into an IM session while in the email interface."
Unlike GoogleWave, however, the platform is aimed at today's enterprise. The Outlook experience is seamless, for example. Cisco is targeting the offer at large enterprises who want to simplify their IT by offloading email to the cloud.
"Of course, you pay for it, but IT saves money and aggravation. Plus, this form of email is more productive and integrated with other UC-type tools," writes Arnold.
Pricing is a big deal. David Ferris, a messaging consultant, notes on his blog the following pricing list:
Webmail Client - includes webmail client, Ironport Security, High Availability, 5G Storage - $3.50/user/month
Standard Client - includes Webmail client, Ironport, High Availability, 5G Storage plus Support for Outlook Client, Support for ActiveSync - $5.00/user/month.
Blackberry support can be added to the Standard client package for an additional $1.00/user/month.
Cisco will also be offering a 35GB option but that price is still TBD.
Microsoft and Lotus may dominate the corporate accounts, but as Osterman Research has pointed out cloud-based email services are getting stronger play. With Cisco's presence in the collaboration space and its brand, WebEx Mail will be a significant challenge. Timing is critical and given the migration to Exchange 2007 that's underway, Cisco should benefit from that churn. One things for certain, the enterprise messaging space has gotten a whole lot more interesting.