Today at its Collaboration Summit 2011 in Miami, Cisco unveils updates to its unified communications platform Jabber and its web conferencing platform Webex that will enhance enterprise collaboration and let people work anytime, and from anywhere.
The Post-PC Era is Upon Us
The idea that we are moving past the PC as our primary tool for work and communications is a running theme this year and as a result we see many vendors enhancing or adding to their platforms to ensure that the mobile worker has the tools necessary to work efficiently and effectively. Cisco's announcements today are in line with this thinking.
Taking Jabber into Your App
Jabber is Cisco's unified communications platform and whether you use Cisco Quad, Google Apps, SAP Streamworks or some other application, you now have the ability to embed Jabber directly into that application. The result is real-time communications at your fingertips without leaving the app you love.
Jabber is now available as a free downloadable browser plug-in that can be included in public cloud-based apps -- like Google Apps -- or in internal business applications enriching business processes with real-time collaboration capabilities.
With this version of Jabber, developers will also receive an SDK that supports the integration of Jabber into any web application. The Cisco Developer Network now includes a portal called the Jabber Developer Program and it's packed with tutorials, videos and other documentation. Version 1 of the SDK is available now and includes support for instant messaging, presence awareness, voice, voicemail and webex. A second version planned for Q1 of next year will include support for HD, telepresence and mid-control calls.
Right now, the Jabber plug-in works for all browsers on both the PC and Mac, but expect the mobile browser to also support the plug-in in the future.
A More Collaborative WebEx
If you thought the WebEx user experience was getting a little old, then you will be happy to hear it has been updated. A new feature that comes with this web conferencing platform is a Meeting Space.
The Meeting Space is designed to support pre and post meeting collaboration process. So, instead of trying to locate your WebEx log in info and get a copy of the presentation for everyone out via email, you have this meeting space where you schedule a meeting, set up the conference details, invite people and place all documentation related to the meeting. There's even an activity stream for you to discuss topics related to the conference, real-time presence awareness and chat capabilities.
WebEx Meeting Space
A meeting space is maintained as long as you like, but that are storage limits you need to consider. With a WebEx account you do get a certain amount of storage, but if you plan to keep these meeting spaces for long periods of time, then you'll likely have to add more storage, which means more $$.
Cisco is also now offering two-way video and VoiP on mobile devices like the Cisco Cius and Apple iPhone in addition to its existing iPad support.
A Free WebEx
Like WebEx, but aren't sure it's the right conferencing platform for you? Now you can try it out with a new free Basic Edition. The basic edition supports meetings for up to three participants and includes all the functionality available in the full edition including 250 MB of storage, IM, VoiP audio, standard video and desktop sharing. You do not get access to its tele-communications or HD video, but those are nice to have's anyway.
According to Raj Gossain, Cisco's VP Product Management, Collaboration Software Group, the hope is that the free version will get more people to try WebEx and enable Cisco to upsell the experience and sell other services.
A public beta version of WebEx will be available sometime in December with general availability coming Q1 2012 and global availability Q3 2012. You can watch a video of how it works.
I really like the new WebEx interface. The Meeting Space concept is something we are seeing with a number of other web conferencing solutions entering the market. The idea that a meeting starts long before it happens and continues long after is not new, but many web conferencing options have typically been only one component of a meeting, with everything else happening in email, document management systems, and other technologies.
Goassain also indicated that Cisco is in the process of integrating WebEx into Quad for sometime next year, which means a seamless experience that will include meetings inside your projects and other collaboration activities.