Product Intelligence Report:
Cisco Cleans Up Its Client Portfolio with Unified Jabber Client
March 11, 2011
, Business Technology and Software
Cloud Services , Telepresence , Unified Communications & Collaboration , Collaboration Platforms
Summary Analytical Summary Cisco remains competitive within the application platform marketplace with the introduction of Cisco Jabber, a new, unifying client interface that melds presence, IM, voice, video and conferencing within a single client that runs across Mac, PC and a number of mobile devices. Currently, Cisco maintains a number of disparate collaborative client UIs, each differing depending upon which device they support (e.g., desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) and service offered. For example, the company offers the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC) in support of unified communications (UC) requirements and WebEx Connect in support of Web conferencing needs. There is also a distinct client application for Cisco's fledgling social networking platform, Cisco Quad, which unfortunately will not figure directly into this unification effort. Even so, with Cisco Jabber, the company is working toward a single client brand and single user experience based upon a common set of technologies and features. This will allow Cisco to effectively leverage and call attention to the integration of its two key best-of-breed capabilities, video (including telepresence) and voice. These represent two areas where its main rivals Google, IBM and Microsoft have uneven and comparatively limited capability. Also, the company's decision to leverage the Jabber brand name, which the company obtained when it acquired IM/presence vendor Jabber, Inc. in 2008, will also draw positive attention to its substantive use of Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) -- a technology that will better enable Cisco to interoperate with third-party collaboration solutions as well as with its own product set. Unfortunately, Cisco's unification game plan will take a great deal of time to pay off, leaving Cisco with an uneven and complicated client strategy for the time being. Cisco intends to replace the current Mac client with Cisco Jabber in Q2 2011, when a Google Android Jabber client will likewise emerge. However, a Windows Jabber client will not emerge until late 2011. In the meantime, Cisco will simply apply the Jabber brand name to its current stock of Windows and mobile device clients, adding features and functions with point releases that will eventually bring all clients into parity. Another difficulty stems from Cisco's failure to fully incorporate Cisco Quad into its Jabber unification efforts. While Quad can interoperate with other Cisco collaboration tools, without a single UI crossing both real-time (WebEx Connect/CUPC) and asynchronous (Quad) collaboration, Cisco will not be able to effectively ply its voice and video advantage in garnering business for Quad when in competition with established collaboration platform solutions such as Google Apps, Microsoft SharePoint/Exchange, IBM Lotus Connections and Jive Engage.
Positives and Concerns Strengths â€˘ With the introduction of Cisco Jabber, the company is signaling its intent to adopt a single, unifying client UI that will span its entire collaboration and communications software and services portfolio. Cisco already possesses a sizable number of collaboration client solutions across many platforms including Macs, PCs, smartphones and tablets. But with the Jabber client (currently in beta for Mac OS with Windows to follow), Cisco intends to meld presence, IM, voice and video (and video messaging), web conferencing and desktop sharing
within a single client that synchronizes features and UI elements across all of its client properties. • While Cisco's Jabber roadmap will extend into 2012, the company intends to unify all client branding under the Jabber moniker immediately. Cisco will simply replace the current Mac client with Cisco Jabber in Q2 2011. For customers currently utilizing Windows-based clients, Cisco will simply apply the Jabber brand name to its current products, adding features and functions with point releases over time that will eventually bring all clients into parity with Cisco Jabber for Mac. This approach will allow customers to migrate to the new UI without having to switch installed software or purchase new licenses. They will simply continue to deploy client upgrades as before.
• The concept of client unity across disparate devices is considered common practice in today's marketplace and would not therefore lend Cisco any special sales or marketing advantage. However, because Cisco possesses market leading technologies across a disparate feature set (e.g., telepresence, unified communications, Web conferencing, etc.), a single client that cleanly melds these adjacent collaboration channels together significantly strengthens Cisco's ability to position itself as a leader in blending voice, video, chat and asynchronous modes of collaboration. Rivals IBM, Google and Microsoft cannot bring to bear a single solution with the same depth across these three communication venues. • Cisco Jabber promises to deliver a unifying client not just in terms of branding and UI design but also with regard to extensibility. Though limited at the outset to IM and presence, Cisco's use of XMPP as a protocol within Jabber promises to help Cisco interoperate with third-party systems from rivals IBM, Google, Microsoft, even Facebook. Such an "open" approach will encourage customers to deploy Cisco's client interface across hybrid installations supporting multi-vendor collaboration tools. For example, Cisco customers can federate IM/presence information with a partner running Google Talk. This could extend to video federation via Cisco's TIP standard. • Cisco's client unification efforts will not stop at desktops and devices. The vendor has architected Cisco Jabber to automatically detect and then engage with back end services that are either on premises or delivered via a public or private cloud. For example, customers running Cisco Unified Presence can add these same services delivered from the Cisco Collaboration Cloud without having to replace or re-provision/reconfigure the Jabber client application. • Similarly, Cisco's unification efforts focus not only upon creating a single UI for multiple back end services but also upon the synthesis of disparate networking methodologies. For example, Cisco is expanding its WIFI capabilities with Jabber (adding to existing cellular tools), easing the use of a single phone line across disparate clients (desktop PC, tablet, laptop, mobile device) for presence, IM and voice conversations. Weaknesses • Cisco currently possesses strong client support on Windows via Unified Personal Communicator and WebEx Connect upon which its new Jabber client will build. However, the company will not be able to actually leverage its Jabber unification efforts with its customers until early 2012. Currently, Cisco has only one Jabber client available today in beta, Cisco Jabber for Mac, which is scheduled for release in the near future (Q2 2011). This pushes the industry's most dominant desktop client platform, Microsoft Windows, into the background. A new Jabber Windows client is not scheduled to appear until late 2011. • Cisco hopes to simplify its move to a single client brand/UI by rebranding current clients such as Cisco Unified Personal Communicator (CUPC) and WebEx Connect now and then rewriting those at a later date to make them full Jabber clients. Until Cisco has rationalized its entire solution set, users will need to remain on the current CUPC and WebEx Connect clients available today. Cisco will migrate branding/technology for its other mobile clients throughout the year. For example, due date for a Jabber Android client is slated for February 2011. This makes Jabber a very complicated and scattered rollout. • Left out of Cisco's client unification efforts with Jabber is the company's nascent but seminal collaboration platform, Cisco Quad. Cisco Quad can use XMPP and will use Jabber's Web SDK to implement its own softphone capabilities. And Jabber can utilize Quad APIs to display social features like activity feeds. However, the Cisco Quad client itself will remain completely separate from the Jabber client, and the Jabber client roadmap does not yet incorporate any native Quad UI functionality. • Because so much time has elapsed between this first mainstream use of the Jabber brand and when Cisco
acquired Jabber in 2008, the company will not be able to capitalize upon Jabber's positive brand associations. Jabber was a well-respected IM and presence platform with a solid open source offshoot, founding one of the first open IM server interfaces (XMPP), which is still in wide use today (see Jabber.org). However ties between the Jabber brand and XMPP have long eroded away, leaving Cisco with a brand name that is catchy but has lost much of its historic value as an influential standards-driving entity. â€˘ Though Cisco Jabber can function within a heterogeneous environment, the client UI presupposes an extensive investment in Cisco communications and collaboration systems to achieve full client functionality. Customers must possess, for example, Cisco Unified Communications Manager 6.1.4 and above to provide voice calling functions. Video, Web conferencing, IM and presence services will also require additional hardware and software/services. This paints a very top heavy picture of Cisco's collaboration infrastructure relative to more centralized and lightweight solutions from rivals IBM, Microsoft, Jive and others. Product Metrics Metric
Presence, Instant messaging, Video, Voice, Conferencing and Unified messaging
Cisco Cius, iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia devices
High-definition industry standard (H.264) video
Web Conferencing Services WebEx MeetingCenter plus ad-hoc audio, web, and video conferencing Supported Compatibility with
Cisco Unified Communications Manager 6.1.4 and above, Cisco Unified Presence
Supportive Cisco Products Server 1.0 and above
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Published on Dec 1, 2011
Report Date: March 11, 2011 Positives and Concerns Platforms •Similarly, Cisco's unification efforts focus not only upon creating a single U...