Channel Marker

Aug 11 2008   8:09AM GMT

Cisco’s next move: online collaboration?

Bcournoyer Brendan Cournoyer Profile: Bcournoyer

The most recent round of rumors about Cisco buying EMC came about because Cisco CEO John Chambers said his company needs to expand into new tech markets. Now the question is, what will those markets be?

If storage is the answer, it’s probably not going to be through an EMC acquisition — at least not now. Despite those rumors, Chambers says Cisco isn’t eyeing any big-name buys at the moment.

Another possible area, suggested by GigaOM’s Om Malik, is online collaboration. Malik posted last night that “Cisco needs to start thinking like a software company.” The theory is that as more businesses embrace online collaboration, they’ll need to expand their corporate data centers. And what better vendor to provide that infrastructure than Cisco?

But the problem is, online collaboration also requires front-end software, either on-premise (Microsoft SharePoint) or hosted (Google Apps). And despite its acquisitions of WebEx, Tribe.net and Five Across, Cisco “doesn’t have either the software or the web DNA” to compete with Microsoft and Google, Malik said.

In a response to Malik’s post, blogger Mark Sigal also questioned whether Cisco — and Cisco partners — will be able to sell collaboration software successfully.

“Selling products with a bow around them, such as networking gear and even web conferencing systems, is very different than providing solutions that integrate with proprietary software systems,” Sigal wrote.

Forrester Research has labeled Cisco a “dark horse” in the race to become online collaboration market king, and this vendor comparison diagram shows that Cisco trails Microsoft, Google and even IBM/Lotus in most areas — except for its channel, which is a strong suit.

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