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Cisco's collaboration jab

Jabber for iPad and enhanced Windows kit a pre-emptive strike at Microsoft Skyping Lync

Cisco's launch this week of video immersed collaboration tools is an attempt to pre-empt the impending integration of Skype with Microsoft Lync. That seems to be the overriding tone of the coverage of the Cisco announcements, which came at this week's Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando.

At the conference, Cisco rolled out its first version of Jabber for the iPad and an upgrade of Jabber for Windows desktop and laptop PCs. Cisco also unveiled a new top-of-the-line telepresence system called TX9000. Colleague Juan Carlos Perez of IDG New Service has the details here.

As Perez reports, Jabber for iPad will let users communicate using voice, video, IM, presence and conferencing, using standards like H264, XMPP and SIP for interoperability with other systems. Jabber for Windows features high-definition video, voice, presence, IM, desktop sharing and Web conferencing, as well as integration with Microsoft Office, and also uses standards like H264, XMPP and SIP.

Interoperability was Cisco's big gripe when it appealed the European Commission's decision to approve the $8.5 billion Microsoft/Skype merger. Cisco had to make interoperability concessions when it acquired videoconferencing leader Tandberg by releasing its TelePresence Interoperability Protocol. Cisco says its appeal of the Microsoft/Skype union is customer driven, but there may be some Cisco-centric motives at play as well.

This week's Jabber enhancements are viewed as direct competitors to Microsoft's plan to integrate Skype with its Lync collaboration platform. Adding Jabber to iPad and enhancing the Windows version are pre-emptive strikes while Microsoft works on Skyping Lync.

Microsoft's lining up some heavy partners for Lync in the meantime, which may make it hard for Cisco Jabber to appeal to current or potential Lync users. This week's Enterprise Connect also hosted HP and Polycom integrating their respective networking and videoconferencing offerings with Lync to create essentially a Lync-based ecosystem of video-enabled collaboration to go up against single-vendor systems - ie, Cisco. Microsoft also lined up session border controller company Acme Packet to get behind Lync.

So yes, Cisco is looking for interoperability lest it be stranded on an island of limited collaboration: Cisco users talking only to other Cisco users. Maybe customers - Cisco Jabber customers - really were pushing for the appeal of the EC's Microsoft/Skype blessing: they were afraid of having no one to talk to but themselves. Or maybe Cisco realized that, by passing on Skype and pushing it towards Microsoft, it dramatically shrank its collaboration pool.  

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