Cisco has launched its own enterprise collaboration platform that puts it in league with multiple other providers that are here in force at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this week.

Cisco's collaboration suite is focused on video and instant messaging. "Presence," is baked into all aspects of the service, which distinguishes it apart in this increasingly crowded space.

The collaborative environment has three core components:

  • Cisco Quad is a collaborative service that will be available later this year.
  • Cisco Prosumer Video integrates Cisco FocalPoint, an online video workspace with a business-class Cisco Flip MinoPRO camcorder.
  • Cisco WebEx Connect IM is now browser-based with capabilities for integrating the IM service into third-party web applications.

There's an interesting thread that flows through this news that reflects on the overall networking space. Video is a driver for networking traffic. It will continue to be a major aspect of overall network traffic in the enterprise.

Cisco is facing this market opportunity by offering collaboration services and devices that connect to the network. Hewlett-Packard will continue to offer devices that complement its network infrastructure. The Palm acquisition provides HP with its own Web OS and the tablets and other device to go with it. As the Web continues its march into the enterprise, we expect that this combination will be a part of how HP and companies like Cisco approach the market.

For the purposes of the E2.0 conference, let's take a look at the Cisco strategy to gain a bit of insight into how the landscape is shaping for one of the giants of the networking world.

Cisco Quad

A core tenant of Cisco Quad is its cross-integration with the company's voice and video business. Cisco's goal is to make video a communication that is as easy as video. it includes an activity stream and other standards that we are seeing emerge. For example, people may use Quad as a microbloging tool for internal use. Messages can go to Twitter, too.

Altimeter Group's analyst Ray Wang compares Cisco's efforts to unified strategies from other major players in the space. Project Vulcan is an IBM initiative launched earlier this year:

But competition means a wholly different thing these days. Competitors are collaborators, too. Cisco's software collaboration tools will eventually integrate with Microsoft Sharepoint, Oracle and other document management environments like Documentum. Cisco Quad will also eventually wok with Google's OpenSocial.

Prosumer Video

It's perhaps the Flip camera integration that reflects most about Cisco's foray into the social technology landscape.Video is core to the Cisco mission, complementing its dominance in the networking space. Video bolsters use of the network, making the Flip camera a tool to strengthen Cisco's data services. In some respects the Flip is like a loss leader, acting as the means for delivering data to the network.

Cisco sees video as a core collaborative exercise. It is increasingly used as a means for providing context, be it personal or for showing products.

Prosumer Video includes a new online video workspace called FocalPoint and a new camera designed for business use: the four-hour Flip MinoPRO camcorder. The Focal Point service is designed for groups to share video over a cloud-based network. Its an end-to-end secure network. The Flip, like all previous models, has its editing software built-in to the camera.

Cisco WebEx Connect 6.5

Cisco WebEx Connect is now in the browser, making it a fully accessible IM environment. It's like GTalk or any other browser-based IM service. It's localized now for several languages. Logs can be compiled for purposes of compliance.

Jabbr makes the latest update of most interest. Developers may now integrate Jabbr into Web application with Cisco's Ajax XMPP library. That's a step for Cisco into the murky and shifting currents that come with building a developer community.

How Cisco builds a developer community is a big question mark. Murali Sitarem has lead the effort for Cisco's enterprise collaboration development. It has been a two year process, marked recently by the acquisition of Tandberg. It's acquisitions like that of Tandberg and Jabbr that Sitarem says will be the key to building a developer community. Sitarem says the company will see systems integrators and developers with deeper IT experience.

But from our view, Cisco will have to provide incentives, which they appear to be doing. Their recruitment program gives fresh technology graduates from the top engineering schools the option of working on any project they wish when joining Cisco. Recruiting young people makes sense as they are digital natives who inherently understand the social networks that stand as models for today's enterprise social technology initiatives.

But how is Cisco going to make it appealing to attract a wide network of developers? The answer may come with Jabbr and Tandberg. But it will take a lot more to build a developer community. A network is not born overnight.