Cisco Integrating Communications with Office Apps
Cisco acquires a small company, Versly, that lets it integrate Quad, Jabber, and WebEx with Microsoft Office applications.
When I first read about Cisco acquiring a small start-up called Versly, which enables collaboration within Microsoft Office documents, the word that sprang to mind was "PostPath." That was the Cisco-acquired company whose email server could speak native protocols to Microsoft Outlook, in theory allowing Cisco to sneak into Microsoft shops with an email product for customers who didn't want to disrupt their Outlook-based end users, but were open to an Exchange doppelganger on the server end of things.
That $215 million purchase turned out badly for Cisco, which shut down the cloud-based email offering it was building off of PostPath, just two and a half years after announcing the acquisition. The Versly deal also comes on the heels of Cisco's abandonment of the Flip video camera product and its exit from the building energy management space. The company is struggling with focus and new market penetration in the wake of its well-publicized troubles, so the question obviously is whether this latest move makes sense in the new context.
In one way, it's a better bet than PostPath, if for no other reason than dollars and cents; the financial terms of the Versly deal were not released, but Versly reportedly only had some nine employees, so it’s hard to believe Cisco could have paid anything like what they shelled out for PostPath. So the risk is a lot lower.
In announcing the Versly acquisition, Cisco stated:
"Versly's software will be integrated into a variety of Cisco's collaboration offerings including Cisco Quad, Cisco Jabber and Cisco WebEx. For example, users will be able to receive automatic notifications within Cisco Quad when the content of a document has changed, escalate from simply reviewing a document to an instant messaging session through Cisco Jabber, or initiate a web conferencing session from a presentation through Cisco WebEx."
I think that given the likely small risk involved, Cisco was wise to make this move. Collaboration within office productivity applications is rapidly becoming table stakes for just about anyone who wants to provide either office apps or collaboration capabilities. The more people use Google Docs, or Microsoft 365 or Lync with their Office suite, the more it will seem ridiculous not to be able to collaborate with the author and other relevant contributors in real-time, within the document; or to be notified via other portals if changes have been made while you were logged out of the office apps.
Enterprise technology organizations who don't want to see office productivity apps get consumerized the way so much else has been, will want to integrate their standardized office app platforms with the collaboration systems that are tying together other apps and interfaces within the enterprise. Those "standardized" office apps might be run in-house, or they might actually be a hosted cloud-based service like 365 or Google Apps; but they'll be "internal" in the sense that their governance is overseen by the enterprise rather than the user acting as an individual.
Ultimately, what the PostPath saga reminded us was that the execution is critical, so there's no guarantee that Cisco will make headway in the market based on its Versly acquisition. But the move was well worth making for Cisco.