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Collaboration in Motion

Increasingly, all these devices and data types will travel over wireless as well as wireline networks and Cisco is looking to work more closely with new and established wireless carriers, as highlighted by its recent alliance with Clearwire.

It is also stepping up the mobile content of its more traditional enterprise offerings, and this week announced the Collaboration in Motion initiative, which brings video and unified communications capabilities to mobile workers. As with most of its new activities, Cisco will combine various existing products and services – from its networking, WebEx and Unified Communications units – to form a new platform that delivers collaboration to notebooks and smartphones.

One of the first moves is the launch of WebEx for the iPhone. When Cisco acquired WebEx in March 2007, it signalled a clear intent to take on Microsoft – and in future, potentially, Google – in the burgeoning enterprise market for unified communications (UC), supporting integrated messaging over wired and wireless networks, and using multiple formats from voice to email to IM to multimedia conferencing. Cisco believes the online collaboration software market will reach a value of $34bn, from an almost standing start, in 2013, as part of a broader expansion of converged UC in small and large companies.

The move to integrate all forms of messaging and mail, whether wired or wireless, within a common IP-based platform will not only enhance communications but underpin many new business processes and customer-facing activities for corporations, making it highly strategic.

Many companies will use steps towards UC as the foundation for broader moves towards mobile enterprise, all-IP convergence and Web 3.0 techniques, which over time will affect all their core applications and have the potential to revolutionize their businesses. In this scenario, the network and the application come together as never before, leading to a stand-off between those traditionally focused on the software - like Microsoft - and on the network, like Cisco.

This made the $3.2bn purchase of WebEx highly significant for Cisco, bringing not only web conferencing and collaboration tools, but the WebEx Media Tone Network, a global platform for secure delivery of on-demand applications; and WebOffice, which is similar to Microsoft‘s Office Live.

Collaboration in Motion builds on that, combining WebEx with Cisco‘s UC platform, Unified Wireless Network (and Advanced Services for technical support). The company says the project will bridge the gap between the wired, WLAN and cellular worlds, allowing mobile employees to work more seamlessly. It will also develop new applications for mobile devices as part of its Workspace Experience initiative. “Evolving modern businesses comprised of workspaces that are rarely physically connected, and critical business information is collected and shared with mobile devices, such as laptops and smartphones, “said Ray Smets, general manager for the Cisco Wireless Networking business unit, in a statement.

Other elements of the new move include an extension of the Compatible Extension Services Program to enable device manufacturers to chose the most relevant service for their particular product – sign-up has come from Wi-Fi chipmakers Atheros, Broadcom, Intel and Texas Instruments. Cisco is also incorporating high speed 802.11n Wi-Fi into a wider range of products and has announced the 5500 Series Wireless Controller, for improved performance in the delivery of video and rich media to wireless devices; and OfficeExtend, a wireless complement to the Virtual Office portfolio.

Cisco also is creating a developer program called the Cisco Developer Network to encourage partners to create software that takes advantage of Cisco‘s network platform. This includes a Developer Network Program for Mobility and offerings built through this community program are verified for integration with the Cisco Unified Wireless Network.

Copyright © 2009, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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