Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | August 27, 2008 |


Cisco Acquisition Aims at Microsoft? (Updated)

Cisco Acquisition Aims at Microsoft? (Updated) This acquisition by Cisco, of a company called PostPath, looks an awful lot like Cisco is gearing up to go head to head with Microsoft's Unified Communications strategy.

This acquisition by Cisco, of a company called PostPath, looks an awful lot like Cisco is gearing up to go head to head with Microsoft's Unified Communications strategy.

This acquisition by Cisco, of a company called PostPath, looks an awful lot like Cisco is gearing up to go head to head with Microsoft's Unified Communications strategy.Here's how the company announcement describes the PostPath technology:

PostPath offers a Linux-based e-mail, calendaring and collaboration solution. It is interoperable with many other e-mail solutions and provides a browser-independent AJAX Web client. In addition, PostPath's software is compatible with a number of mobile clients.

PostPath bills itself as a "replacement or supplement to Outlook...the only drop-in Exchange patches, no plug-ins."

The company wasn't gunning for Exchange:

PostPath realizes that better doesn't necessarily mean incompatible. In fact, PostPath recognizes that Microsoft Exchange™ has become the defacto standard for email in businesses large and small. To create a better email server, one that businesses can actually use, PostPath set out to build one that is interoperable with Exchange™ at the network protocol level.

To achieve this, PostPath set out to break open the compatibility lock that Exchange™ has had over email infrastructure. The result is the only non-Microsoft email server that offers drop-in/native interoperability with Outlook™, Exchange™ and with the rest of the existing email ecosystem - including Active Directory™, ActiveSync™, and applications like BlackBerry™ Enterprise Server (BES). This means that NO plug-ins or cumbersome middleware are ever required.

So it sounds like Cisco's aiming squarely at Microsoft UC. Not at the Exchange server, but at the endpoint, with PostPath's web client, and its compatibility with mobile endpoint enablers like the Blackberry Enterprise server. This reflects the reality of today's mobile email world and doesn't seek to overturn it.

And I hate to say I told you so, but some months back I asked the question, "Should Cisco Compete with IBM for Second-Place in the Desktop Market?" I based that proposition on my reading of a Wainhouse Research survey that indicated Cisco was just about the only IP-PBX vendor that any significant number of enterprise users would consider for their UC client. I was thinking of Cisco's own desktop client tied to the Unified Communications Manager IP-PBX, but with PostPath, Cisco is obviously looking to broaden its play.

Update: I totally agree with Om Malik: "This battle is more fun to watch than anything else out there."

Om also pays attention that I initially failed to pay to the deal's $215 million price tag. Compare that with some of the other acquisition prices in the communications business:

  • NEC-Sphere: $42 million
  • Aastra-Ericsson PBX: $103 million
  • Mitel-Inter-Tel: $723 million
  • Gores Group-Siemens Enterprise (SEN): $550 million between the 2 JV owners (Gores and Siemens AG)

    That means that PostPath was worth almost exactly as much to Cisco as SEN was to Gores Group, and twice as much as Ericsson's PBX business was worth to Aastra. That would be the Siemens and Ericsson that still hold market-leading positions with thousands of customers around the world in a big-ticket equipment market. Whether that says more about Siemens and Ericsson than it does about PostPath and Cisco, I don't know. Is the PBX business really so yesterday? Or is the Web 2.0/SaaS bubble really that inflated?


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