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Cisco discontinues WebEx Social, partners with Jive for social strategy

Cisco has discontinued its WebEx Social platform and its own home-grown social efforts, and announces partnership with Jive for social strategy.

Two years ago Cisco tried to boost its Quad enterprise social networking software by rebranding it as WebEx Social. Now Cisco is abandoning its homegrown social efforts and partnering with social collaboration specialist, Jive Software.

Cisco's social growing pains revealed themselves in 2010 when Cisco Quad struggled to differentiate itself in a market crowded with social platforms from large vendors -- such as Microsoft and IBM -- as well as smaller, pure play enterprise social vendors -- like Tibco, Igloo, and Huddle. Cisco tried to boost its social strategy by tying Quad to its popular WebEx online conferencing technology. The pivot toward a Jive partnership suggests the WebEx brand wasn't enough to rescue Quad.

WebEx Social, Jive platform integrations

Cisco will initially resell Jive's social software, but the two vendors will also collaborate on product engineering, said Peder Ulander, vice president of collaboration solutions marketing for Cisco.

"We've come to realize there is more of an opportunity to partner with leaders in the social enterprise space to make sure we are bringing [users] one experience that ties together synchronous and asynchronous collaboration technologies," Ulander said.

Cisco announced the end-of-sale of WebEx Social, effective immediately. The company is now offering a collaboration package that includes WebEx Meetings for audio and video Web conferencing, Jabber for instant messaging and Jive's enterprise social software for employee collaboration, which includes activity streams, microblogging and document sharing. Users of Jive's social platform now have the ability to start a WebEx meeting right from their user interface and Cisco users can launch Jive social capabilities directly from a WebEx meeting interaction, Ulander said. "We are working together to allow for better integrations between our real-time technologies [and] the Jive platform," he said.

While some integrations between the two vendor's UC and social capabilities are already in place for Jive users, the joint engineering efforts will work toward a seamless experience for users, said Elisa Steele, executive vice president of strategy and chief marketing officer for Jive. Jive, a leader in Gartner's 2013 enterprise social software Magic Quadrant report, will also benefit from the partnership by increasing its visibility in the market, Steele said.

"There have been a lot of questions around the value of a pure-play, standalone social vendor and whether they can really go it alone," said Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at Mountain View, California based Frost and Sullivan Inc. "Now, Jive and Cisco can stand back to back and fight in the market together."

UC and collaboration vendors partner with specialists when homegrown efforts fail

Large vendors like Cisco that are trying to consolidate their position in the collaboration market can partner with specialists to close gaps in their collaboration systems, whether it is social, mobility or database integration, Arnold said. "For Cisco, WebEx Social was a fairly immature platform," he said. "Jive is [a] much more robust and established player in the social market and is coming at the market from a different angle than Cisco."

More on Cisco WebEx Social

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Demo: Cisco Quad offers mobile social networking

Cisco introduces Cisco WebEx Social for higher education

While there is more incentive for some companies -- like Microsoft -- to own the intellectual property for social, it makes for sense for Cisco -- primarily an IT company -- to turn to pure-play social vendors in this space, said Bill Haskins, partner and senior analyst of Duxbury, Massachusetts-based Wainhouse Research LLC.

"The question is, what is the vendor's place in this larger collaboration discussion [and] what tools are they already providing," he said. "That will determine whether it makes sense to partner or grow internally. Cisco is saying that they can do social better and more competitively through partnership."

Cisco's Ulander said that the company is choosing to focus on what they already do well, including real-time collaboration functionality, like voice and video. "We had a good start with WebEx Social, but when you look at the breadth of what Jive brings to the market, it's more than what we were able to deliver with [WebEx] Social," he said. "We can give customers a better solution by partnering."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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