Is Cisco Announcing a "Jabber Cloud"?
In Model One (basically VDI), the UC process creates the visual image of the conference internally and simply sends it to the user's selected device, which might well be as dumb as a stump.
In Model Two, akin to Firefox OS, the user's device could supply some intelligence--in formatting or reformatting, for example--and the UC process could invoke that intelligence to perhaps create a better conference display or reduce bandwidth consumed in linking the conference to the user. Security and compliance could even be hosted within the end user device.
In Model Three, the UC process might best be considered as being hosted in a cloud that extends its boundary all the way out to the device.
Gee, it seems hard to pick which model is best, right? I think that's one of the challenges.
UC itself is morphing under a combination of pressures. Technology is changing the power and capabilities of mobile devices and is shifting workers away from a fixed place of work. Mobile practices, particularly texting, are shifting users away from voice calls, and that makes it harder to validate a pairwise video collaboration model; why use video when you don't even want to talk? Applications are becoming more collaboration-focused, meaning that any kind of knowledge work, from programming to document development, is now supported by tools that allow multiple simultaneous users, and also often include some form of real-time (simultaneous) parallel communication among the users.
Perhaps we should be thinking not of which approach is best but of how to support them all. Arguably we could do this with a single step--expand our notion of "the cloud" to include the devices in the users' hands. The resource pool of the future includes...US! Our devices can contribute anything from their own compute power to information about their location, motion, and social context. If that's the case, then we can visualize the UC application of the future as a set of components selected dynamically, based on what we are using and what and who is trying to work with us.
This seems to me to be a good approach, but the question is whether Cisco (or anyone) is really following it. Yes, Jabber with XMPP seems a decent protocol to use to mediate collaborative communications flows, but I don't think anyone is proposing it as a general model for inter-element communication within the cloud. Thus, if we presume that the future cloud envelops even mobile devices in its "resource pool" we'd need another set of APIs or protocols to support that model. That could be the "platform-as-a-service" or "virtual cloud operating system" on which applications of the future would be built.
Does Cisco see this? Here's a network company who says it wants to be an IT leader. Could a concept like this give Cisco a real path to that goal and not just some neat talking points for Wall Street? I think it could, and since it seems 2013 will be the year of transition to the cloud model of the future, we're likely to find out soon whether Cisco sees that too.