Cisco doesn't have a big presence at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this week, but its Quad social-collaboration product is very much on the minds of everyone who's assessing where this nascent market is headed.
As users move from the evangelism and hype phase into assessment and adoption mode, Cisco has quickly become one of the big elephants in the emerging E2.0 market, alongside Microsoft, with Office365 (aka Office and SharePoint in the cloud), IBM Lotus Live and Jive Software. All three of these vendors have made recent announcements.
Only Cisco has been mum of late. Not that they don't have a big story: When Quad was announced in June, it was positioned as a product for large enterprises, who would host it within their own private cloud infrastructure.
With Quad now in limited availability -- and poised to move into general availability in 2011 -- Cisco is getting ready to disclose a public cloud-based version aimed at SMB customers. Cisco won't confirm precisely when that announcement will come, but it could be as early as Cisco's Collaboration Summit, which will be held the week of Nov. 15.
Emphasizing the Unified Communications aspect of Quad -- it's a highly video-centric product -- the cloud offering will be marketed in conjunction with Cisco's telecom partners such as Verizon.
"We think our telecom partners over time will have the opportunity to deliver full services using our products." Murali Sitaram, the Cisco vice president in charge of Quad, told me in a recent interview. "So [that can include] cloud-based, or private cloud based or hosted services for our customers, using the range of UC and collaboration components we have."
Add to this the fact that Cisco says it currently has more than 60,000 enterprise customers who use its UC platform, and whether you're talking direct sales or the telecom partner channel, Cisco has fertile territory to mine.
In this sense, Cisco is perhaps in a similar position to Microsoft, which has its own humungous installed Office base, presumably ripe for migration to Office 365.
Indeed, those large Cisco and Microsoft installed bases make one think that E2.0 is being propelled as much by its market potential as its use-case benefits.
For Cisco, the video-centrism of Quad is not surprising considering Cisco's networking heritage and its ongoing fervor for all things bandwidth-intensive. (See Cisco Video Thrust Telegraphs Bandwidth-Bandit Strategy.)
"We come from the communications platform perspective," said Sitaram. "We're going to make sure that our products, especially Cisco Quad, are in tune with real-time communications and collaboration. They'll have all the other E2.0 features, but the key thing that differentiates [Quad] is the ability to quickly reach out to a person or a group, see if they're available and connect with them, better than any of the other vendors."
Cisco is also going to add mobile connectivity to Quad. Over the next couple of months, we're going to release the iPhone and iPad application for Quad, and soon after that the Android device -- so that we'll have full coverage on the major smartphone and tablet platforms," said Sitaram. "Think any content to any device, anytime, anywhere."
FOR FURTHER READING:
To watch a video on Cisco Quad by my colleague Fritz Nelson, go here.