Enterprise Connect: Tuesday keynote from Cisco

Cisco on the rocks, please

For more photos and videos of Cisco products please visit the album on Facebook.

This year it’s Cisco’s Barry O’Sullivan, SVP Voice Technology Group, who got to lead off Tuesday keynotes. The presentation videos and slides were well done, and the message continued to be about video taking over business interactions. The “video is the new voice” mantra echoed throughout the room. (Interestingly, some may disagree.)

More video means more data. More data means more (or bigger) routers. More routers mean more money for Cisco. Video does have its place in the enterprise, but it’s debatable whether most companies share Cisco’s urgency of addressing the infrastructure needs of video right now. No matter, the bottom line is “when” not “if” video applications will explode in our faces.

I don’t blame Cisco for that marketing message (heck, almost every major exhibitor at the show does it) and O’Sullivan did make some interesting announcements, starting with Cisco Jabber.

Jabber was acquired by Cisco in 2008 — yes, a long time ago. Finally the company is leveraging Jabber to be part of its UC portfolio. In the ol’ days Jabber was used to just do IM, but thanks to standards like XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) Cisco Jabber features video, conferencing, voice, and mobility capabilities. It’s the “buddy list” to end all buddy lists.

Of course, this being the Year of the Tablet everyone was most curious about the progress of the Cius. Well, there was good news and bad news. First, the good news: Cisco aims to reduce the street price from the original $1,000 to $700. The bad news: Cisco has to reduce the street price from the original $1,000 to $700. After all, Apple has set the bar high with iPad (and iPad 2 to come out March 11), both in design and pricing.

O’Sullivan claimed that the company was seeing “unbelievable demand for the device” and said the tablet will become the company’s hottest selling product within a year. That’s quite a bold statement considering Cisco’s product portfolio of mainly routers and switches.

Can I hold it too?

As much as I don’t believe in an “enterprise tablet market,” the Cius does have a couple of differentiators. It has a dock to extend its use as a desktop video phone and also to provide a virtualized PC environment. The tablet runs on Android (not sure which version) and an Intel Atom CPU (commonly found on netbooks), and the demo unit at the booth was still in beta. According to a Cisco representative, work is still progressing to improve stability and optimize battery power.

However, I think the announcement that has the most impact was its new appliances for the SMB segment. Let’s be honest — Cisco products and solutions are often considered too expensive for SMBs. For a good number of years Cisco only paid attention to the large enterprises, but recently it’s shifted its market focus to include small- and mid-tiered businesses. Now Cisco is getting serious about this segment by introducing three products that give business owners a lot of bang for their bucks.

The Cisco UC 320W (under 25 users) looks like a router (even has two antennas sticking up), acts like a router, but is capable of so much more. WiFi (802.11a/g/n), VOIP, unified communications. Setup and administration tasks are easily done via the browser. This appliance can enable UC/IP of a business in 20 minutes or less.

For the slightly bigger enterprise there’s the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000 for 300 users across 10 sites. Again, simple to setup and administer. Something like this could last a long time for a business that’s just starting to grow.

These products, if marketed effectively (for example, reshaping Cisco’s image to be more SMB friendly), could give heartburn to competitors in the SMB space. Make it known to SMB owners that they are also “Welcome to the Human Network.”


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