Interesting update, Cisco Takes a Page from Twitter to Compete in Collaboration, on WebEx Connect. Will these enhancements, including the integration of Jabber and a rich set of API’s, accelerate Cisco beyond simple Web 2.0 collaboration services into an enterprise platform to for business process integration?
WebEx, excellent for on-line meetings and growing into a complete collaboration suite, is part of the many Web 2.0 applications delivered as a service or Software as a Service (SaaS.) WebEx, microblogging, corporate blogs, chat, video and wikis are replacing the traditional backoffice applications (Oracle & SAP) as key differentiators in today’s competitive business environment. Web 2.0 is definitely “front office” material and, in fact, these apps don’t even need an office. They thrive on borderless networks where open collaboration and conversations can occur.
However, many Web 2.0 apps are disconnected from the traditional business processes and offer limited value. Many are falling short in terms of their true potential to impact the business. Sure, there are some that offer incremental improvement in communications or productivity, but to reach their full potential, Web 2.0 apps need to be more tightly integrated into mainstream business processes.
At its core, Web 2.0 is about collaboration and communications. I’d suggest Web 2.0 is more about “conversations.” With it’s leadership in Unified Communications, Cisco has the opportunity to use WebEx Connect as the platform for providing real-time “presence” information as a service or PaaS, Presence as a Service. Running in the cloud, WebEx Connect has the potential to tie disparate Web 2.0 “conversations” into Cisco’s Unified Communications architecture. For more on Cisco’s cloud strategy check out Padmasree Warrior’s, Cisco’s CTO, comments in this Channel Insider article, Cisco Sets Limits to Cloud Strategy – Cisco.)
WebEx is much more than web conferencing. WebEx Connect Collaboration Services offers Presence, Instant Messaging, Shared Workspaces, Voice and Video. The most important aspect to WebEx connect is the rich set of platform API’s that if offers. With WebEx Connect’s open API, Web 2.0’s “conversations” can be united with legacy communication systems and business applications. Are we entering the era of “UC 3.0,” or “Unified Conversations,” where Web 2.0 business conversations are united with legacy back office processes?
(Side Bar: Why 3.0? First there was UC 1.0 or Unified Communications, then came the iteration of UC with Cisco’s announcements early this year on “Unified Compute.” I’m not sure why they didn’t come up with a something other than unified compute since that UC will be confused with UC of Unified Communications. Now I’m suggesting the third iteration of UC, “Unified Conversations.” Actually, a quick, non-analytical, non-exhaustive, Google search reveals that Skype uses the term “unified conversations” and I’ve seen several mentions ofUC 2.0.)
Cisco has an opportunity to continue to progress beyond their traditional network infrastructure offerings to facilitating true business processes. Building on their unified communications capabilities and with WebEx Connect providing “Presence as a Service”, Cisco could take the lead in integrating instant messaging, on-line collaboration, video, microblogging and presence into mainstream business processes and will make Web 2.0 truly relevant to the enterprise.