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Cisco Dances With Jive

The term "Jive" can refer to a type of music, a dance, or to engage in kidding. It appears that to Cisco, the term Jive has a similarly multi-layered meaning: The company tried to dance in the social media space for years but has had limited success. So instead of jiving itself further in believing it's better to build its own social platform, the company announced it would now partner with social media specialist, Jive Software.

As part of this agreement, Cisco will immediately stop selling its own product, WebEx Social (formerly known as Quad), and Jive will become an integrated component of the Cisco Collaboration suite and will be sold through the Cisco channel and massive partner network. I've heard a few rumblings that Cisco was looking to acquire Jive to bolster its collaboration platform, but its looks like those were fueled by the partnership discussions, not acquisition talks.

Cisco has told its WebEx Social customers about the plans to discontinue that product, and it will continue to support the cloud product until June of 2016, and the on-premise version until June of 2017, so I certainly don't expect any customer churn based on this announcement.

Through the integration, Cisco and Jive customers will get a number of cool features, including the ability to invoice, join and launch a WebEx, or start a Jabber chat session from within Jive. This enables employees to find and collaborate with content experts seamlessly instead of having to log in and out of different systems and maintain separate workflows. Also, the two companies will conduct some joint product engineering to deliver more innovative features, bringing more value to both groups of customers.

For Cisco, social certainly isn't new. The company acquired late last year and had a plan to enable workers to launch WebEx meetings from with the product. Prior to that, Cisco had acquired Utah Street and Five Across, so the company certainly has understood the value of social and is now using a best-of-breed partner instead of building it in house.

For Jive, the value is obvious. It has a big name in social today, but competes with some other big-name companies with huge channels, such as Microsoft with Yammer and Sharepoint, Tibco with Tibbr and IBM with its Connections product. The opportunity to sell product through Cisco's massive global channel is certainly a boon for a company that small in comparison to the competitive field.

For Cisco, the move is interesting but consistent with the other announcements the company has made over the past year or so. Cisco seems content to do what it does best instead of throwing more resources at a market that's too established or too far afield from Cisco's core for it to win.

For example, earlier this year at the 2014 version of Enterprise Connect, Rowan Trollope, Cisco's SVP and GM of Collaboration Technology Group, announced it was partnering with Google to enable WebEx to run inside Chromebooks. While Rowan didn't give a lot of details of the future of the relationship, the partnership gives Cisco a strong partner in the e-mail and office productivity areas. If you recall, Cisco once took a run at the e-mail market with the acquisition of PostPath, which became WebEx mail. Again, instead of chasing a market that's well established, Cisco said adieu to PostPath and is using Google as a partner.

The same thing can be said with Jive and social. Instead of chasing a market filled with best-of-breed companies and some big-name software companies, partner with Jive and go focus on what the company does best.

Expect Cisco now to focus on enhancing the WebEx meeting experience, Jabber functionality (particularly mobile) and video conferencing. At Enterprise Connect, Trollope had made comments about being focused on making video technology pervasive and changing the meeting experience. He also discussed how the majority of conference rooms have no collaboration equipment, so making that the primary mission of Cisco's Collaboration group seems to have more upside than chasing social. Enterprise social certainly complements that, but would also be a distraction from the core products that Cisco sells today.

As an industry, we used to debate and anticipate what the next big product announcement from Cisco was going to be. Given the shift in strategy, perhaps the next big thing from Cisco will be another partnership rather than a home-grown product.

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