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Cisco Quad: Closing the Gap Between Enterprise and Consumer Apps

This week, Cisco announced that Cisco Quad, its enterprise social software (ESS), is available as a hosted or managed service; and that the platform is getting a refresh in version 2.5, due out next month. Quad 2.5 will include pre-built integrations with leading content management and instant messaging platforms from EMC, Microsoft, and IBM, as well as a new mobile application for the Android-based Cisco Cius tablet. On a call with press and analysts, Cisco explained that the goal is to help end users tailor Quad to their needs, so that companies can drive end-user engagement and adoption.

Here's a list of some of the more interesting enhancements:

* Cisco is integrating its activity streams and its "watch list" functionality so that users can define, filter, and improve the relevance of the content they consume from their professional networks. * Quad 2.5 supports file attachments and multimedia within the micro-blogging function, which could help lessen the load on email systems, and keep content contextual.

* The new version proactively suggests recommendations for users--such as new posts to read, people to follow, and communities to join--based on their activity and the activities of the people within their networks.

* Cisco Quad 2.5 contains pre-built integration with Microsoft OCS 2007, IBM Sametime 8.5.1, and Cisco Jabber, enabling pervasive presence and chat between Cisco Quad and the IM clients.

Some of these improvements bring Quad closer to the consumer services we're all used to. But they will not necessarily achieve the goals Cisco and its customers hope to reach. For instance, it would seem to be table stakes for an ESS platform to allow users to attach files and multimedia links to posts, but doing so does not necessarily mean people will stop sending such attachments via email. And, of course, much depends on the actual capability of the software to deliver on its proactive promises: The recommendations and filters Facebook suggests for me are rarely useful, and often absurd. Presumably, Quad's universe of options is smaller, so its hit rate should be better, but the proof will be in the presentation.

Still, I applaud the effort, as well as the integration with other types of real-time communication. If there's anything users are in agreement about when we ask them about unified communications and collaboration--which increasingly includes ESS--it's the need for more applications from more vendors to work together, seamlessly and right out of the box; and for the user experience to be one of choice and contextualization.