Cisco has announced improvements to its Jabber IM, presence and video-conferencing product, as well as to its room-size "immersive" telepresence systems, as the networking giant continues to push its way into the workplace collaboration market.
Cisco plans to release at some point in the second quarter its first version of Jabber for the iPad and an upgrade of Jabber for Windows desktop and laptop PCs, as well as a new top-of-the-line telepresence system called TX9000, designed to improve upon existing Cisco products of this sort.
Jabber for iPad will let users communicate using voice, video, IM, presence and conferencing, using standards like H264, XMPP and SIP for interoperability with other systems. Jabber for Windows features high definition video, voice, presence, IM, desktop sharing and web conferencing, as well as integration with Microsoft Office.
Meanwhile, the TX9000 is designed to take Cisco's large telepresence systems from an immersive experience to one that also allows for what the company calls "high intensity collaboration" for scenarios like sophisticated planning sessions, brainstorming, "war rooms", critical problem resolution and engineering design.
Among the new features introduced in the TX9000 is the ability to share content on the main telepresence screens, as opposed to only on the smaller one below them, along with "point and highlight" capabilities, white boarding and calling up data from multiple content sources, according to the company.
Also new is a simplified way to integrate WebEx online meetings with TX9000 sessions, and a simpler way to launch and manage TX9000 meetings using a touch-based user interface.
The TX9000 also features a new placement for its cameras, designed to enhance eye contact among participants while making the cameras less conspicuous. It doesn't require additional special lighting nor audio. It can provide video quality as high as 1080p at 60fps, while requiring 20 percent less bandwidth than existing Cisco telepresence systems. The TX9000 can be used by six people, while the TX9200 model adds a second table for up to 18 participants.
Cisco also claims that system setup has been simplified, so that installation partners can complete a job in as little as two days.
Industry analyst Maribel Lopez from Lopez Research said Cisco now has a good portfolio of video communications across its products, which is important because video will continue to increase its importance in workplace communications and collaboration.
"Video will change over time. Most people think of it as face-to-face. While this is interesting, it doesn't take into account that video will be next-generation content. Today content means documents like PowerPoint and Word files. Tomorrow more content will be video. So video is more than just my tiny face looking at another tiny face on a screen while we share a PowerPoint," she said.
Collaboration traditionally has, and continues to be, strongly associated with email and document management, which has made this market a challenge for Cisco, but it could ride video to a leadership position, she said.
"The goal for Cisco is to change what collaboration means. For example, no vendor is the established choice for doing secure cross-company collaboration with video and document sharing and repositories," she said.
Many applications can use a built-in collaboration and communications component and no vendor owns this space, she said.
"Communications will have voice, video and attachments associated with it. It will be portable across devices. It will have a knowledge of what you have access to and if that varies by what device you are using or where you are located. It will also have knowledge of whether you are communicating internally or across groups. This is contextual communications and this is the future," she said.
Industry analyst Zeus Kerravala from ZK Research said that the TX9000 is noteworthy because it's the biggest upgrade in that product line since its inception.
"Cisco has created the ability to freely move content and video sessions between the screens, shifting this market from being TelePresence to TeleCollaboration. Now the user has greater control over what content is displayed in what screen versus the system deciding," he said.
Kerravala sees the Jabber enhancements as geared at enabling greater unified communications functionality across a wide range of mobile devices, to let companies move into the "post PC" era.
"Bring your own device has become a top initiative for CIOs and the Jabber enhancements can enable communications consistency across the devices," he said.
As Cisco pursues the collaboration market, it needs to direct its pitch at line of business managers, as opposed to IT officials in charge of desktops and email communications, who think first about traditional collaboration vendors like Microsoft and IBM, he said.
Line of business managers will be more receptive and better able to assess the considerable breadth of Cisco's collaboration portfolio, Kerravala said.