Cisco Systems has expanded its Web conferencing brand WebEX in an effort to offer its customers a more social experience with its unified communications and collaboration technologies. It has rebranded Quad, its enterprise social-software product, as Cisco WebEx Social and its hosted telepresence service Callway as Cisco WebEx Telepresence.
Cisco WebEx Social was also recently enhanced with Jabber, an application that ties presence, instant messaging, voice, voice messaging and video calling capabilities into the collaboration tool.
Enterprise users are more mobile and work remotely more often, and vendors are banking on the idea that enhancing UC and collaboration tools with enterprise social software will make it easier for enterprises to bridge distances. Vendors like Cisco, Microsoft and Jive are paving the way for communication and collaboration to go social in the enterprise.
Cisco WebEx Social: A social experience for UC
Cisco WebEx Social, available in July, can integrate with Microsoft Office for document sharing and joint-editing of work on Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Integration among email clients and WebEx Social will allow users to post to Cisco WebEx Social from clients, like Microsoft Outlook, and write email from within WebEx Social.
Keeping flexibility in mind, Cisco will offer North American users a choice of deployment models for WebEx Social. The application will be available as an on-premises model, hosted by Cisco partners Logicalis, ACS and Alphawest, or as a cloud-based offering that Cisco hosts.
Cisco also updated the former Quad mobile app for Cisco WebEx Social. Users will be able to download the mobile application from the Cisco app store and communicate in real-time via instant messaging, voice calls and Web conferencing from their iPhone or iPad.
Cisco Quad customer Manjiri Ranade, associate vice president of operations for Persistent Systems, a provider of mobile ad-hoc networking systems for government and industrial clients, said that users have been involved in early testing of WebEx Social and are looking forward to a full integration in two months. Her company had recently consolidated from multiple collaboration tools to Quad.
"The overall usability [of WebEx Social] is much improved compared to Quad," she said, noting that employees are making use of Cisco WebEx Social's integration with Microsoft Office for document sharing and collaboration between remote workers.
Users asked for a more flexible and collaborative UC and collaboration experience, Ranade said, and they enjoy access to the social functions while on the road.
More on UC & the social experience:
Social media integration a must-have for enterprises
Integrating social in enterprise collaboration platforms
Enterprise social software Magic Quadrant: Determining what users need
Cisco WebEx Social enhances Jabber as competitor to Microsoft Lync
At Enterprise Connect 2012, battle lines were drawn between Cisco Jabber and Microsoft Lync, noted Jim Lundy, lead analyst at Aragon Research. Lync's integration with SharePoint for document sharing and Jabber's integration with WebEx Social demonstrates that Microsoft and Cisco are getting in front of the collaboration trend by making UC more social for enterprise users.
"There are many enterprise UC software tools, but if vendors don't integrate communication, collaboration and social -- and the availability of a mobile client -- they are going to be late to the dance," he said.
Cisco's incorporation of Jabber into its enterprise collaboration platform speaks to the industry push for truly unified communications, noted Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan Inc.
"Cisco's initiatives with Jabber are designed to give users a consistent experience regardless of their location or preferred device -- it's a strong move that makes perfect sense," he said.
The rapid adoption of mobile phones, tablets and applications within the enterprise has pushed Cisco to move the forefront of its UC strategy, said Michael Smith, director of collaboration product marketing for Cisco, noting that the ubiquity of Wi-Fi access for mobile devices has sparked a growth in video and communication applications used across tablets and smartphones.
Cisco is positioning Jabber as a competitive alternative to Lync, with a similar, feature-rich interface, presence and video capabilities, plus integration with Microsoft Office. However, Cisco is also playing to its own strengths without trying to match Lync feature by feature, Arnold said.
"We can expect Jabber to integrate tightly with Cisco's videoconferencing, social enterprise software, contact center, Pulse, and other apps that Microsoft can't provide on its own," he said, noting that Microsoft relies on Polycom for video.
Blending together UC, collaboration and social will be crucial for vendors looking to develop a seamless social enterprise software package -- while keeping interoperability with other vendor UC products and endpoints in mind, Lundy noted.
While Cisco pulls from only its own UC and collaboration technologies for WebEx Social, partnerships between vendors in building enterprise social software is not going to be uncommon moving forward. "Vendors like Microsoft have Polycom as a backbone with Lync, and that's fine," he said. Cisco may be drawing on the expertise of its partners for future UC products and enterprise social software offerings.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.