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Cisco's PostPath Acquisition: More Light on Cisco's UC Roadmap

Cisco plans to integrate this with the WebEx Connect service now in a beta trial period. WebEx Connect is an office collaboration product aimed at supporting a user's participation in multiple simultaneous teams as well as an IM and presence-based social networking environment.

According to Cisco's press release, "In today's fast-paced business environment, effective, adaptive collaboration is critical to creating and sustaining a competitive advantage. With PostPath's software, Cisco will extend the e-mail and calendar functionality of its flexible software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based collaborative platform that includes instant messaging, voice, video, data, document management and Web 2.0 applications. This combination will enable customers to use collaboration to accelerate business processes, within and between businesses." (Note the emphasis on business processes, matching the definition of Unified Communications as, "Communications integrated to optimize business processes.")

Sure looks like cloud-based competition for Microsoft Office Live and Google Apps Team Edition, as well as an alternative to both IBM Lotus Quickr with Sametime and Microsoft Unified Communications including Office, SharePoint, and OCS 2007.

I've had the chance to use the beta version of WebEx Connect and it's very clear that this is a communication system, as well as a collaborative workspace. The classic WebEx "ball" is the "on" button for your communications. Mouse over the ball and you get four click-to-communicate tools:

And this is not just PC/browser based, as Cisco says that, "In addition, PostPath's software is compatible with a number of mobile clients.

What does this mean for the UC roadmap at Cisco? It's perhaps too soon to tell, but it is pretty clear that the acquisition of WebEx started a new branch on the Cisco roadmap by positioning collaborative tools "in the cloud". Adding the PostPath enhanced e-mail and calendaring functionality will make the product an even more encompassing business tool. The missing piece is the "connector", to use the roadmap analogy, between an on-premise Cisco Unified Communication Manager system and this alternate user tool. It certainly seems possible that Cisco will begin to propose less CUCM capacity on premise, i.e. to support the less mobile desk-based users and others who need traditional telephony, while proposing some interconnected version of WebEx Connect via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for the collaborative mobile personnel.

This is right in line with observations at VoiceCon and in the UC eWeekly that UC is quite likely to be delivered as distinct, but interoperable solutions depending on the roles of the users within the enterprise business processes.

The technologies offered to address enterprises' Unified Communications application and solution needs are sure moving quickly. It's a great time to be making your UC plans and to be installing selected UC applications.

What do you think of this Cisco move? Please let me know by posting a comment or writing to [email protected].