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3/27/2012
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Cisco Unified Communications Play Includes iPad

At Enterprise Connect conference, Cisco announces Jabber will be coming to iPad and Windows. Also unveils new high-end telepresence design.

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Voice and video-enabled versions of the Jabber instant messaging client will be coming to the iPad and to Windows in the next few months, as Cisco broadens the reach of its telepresence and unified communications offerings.

Announced at UBM's Enterprise Connect conference and demonstrated as part of a keynote address from O.J. Winge, senior VP and general manager for video and collaboration, the new Jabber software has turned into a universal client for Cisco interactive experiences, including WebEx collaboration. Cisco acquired Jabber in 2008 for its instant messaging and presence detection technology. Jabber pioneered the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) used for bridging between instant messaging systems.

The new Windows client for Jabber mimics many of the features Cisco has already delivered in the Mac version of the software. The Windows and iPad versions also incorporate the Movi technology for efficient transmission of high definition video that Cisco picked up with its acquisition of Tandberg in 2010. Both versions are due for release in the second quarter; Jabber for Mac will get an update including the Movi technology in the third quarter, according to Cisco. Jabber for iPad, Jabber for Windows and related server software are included as part of Cisco Unified Workspace licensing.

The Jabber software is one way Cisco is trying to simplify the challenges of mobile unified communications.

In the on-stage demo, Winge showed how Jabber presence information and the ability to start chat, audio, or video sessions can also be integrated with products like Microsoft Outlook. Cisco wants to disprove the "myth" that the only way to achieve that kind of interactivity is with an end-to-end implementation of Microsoft technologies.

Also Tuesday, Cisco announced its latest high-end Telepresence room design. The TX9000 is a three-screen setup facing a conference table that seats six (expandable with a second row of seats to an 18-user configuration known as the TX9200). More importantly, it features a new polished industrial design with better lighting and concealed cameras, plus the ability to mix and match which screens display data, as opposed to remote camera views. The TX9000 is scheduled for release in the second quarter at a suggested U.S. list price of $299,000.

Previous generations of Cisco Telepresence rooms assumed that remote participants would always be featured on one or more large screens, while slides or other data would be shown on a smaller secondary display. The TX9000's touch screen controller makes it possible to rearrange what is shown where in any order. The idea is to offer a mix of the immersive connection with remote collaborators and also with the data they might be collaborating around.

David J. Danato, a principal consultant specializing in collaboration technologies at Dimension Data, said he was impressed by the TX9000 as delivering the best of the Tandberg's design prowess and Cisco's established Telepresence product line. "It's a terrific blend of San Jose and Oslo," he said.

Danto also thought it was significant that Cisco took time to demonstrate Jabber presence integrated with Outlook. "They really believe they have something that cannot just coexist with Lync but replace Lync," he said, referring to Microsoft's unified communications software.

In a third announcement on Monday, Cisco added Sprint to the list of carriers it has partnered with to offer a hosted version of its unified communication and collaboration suite. Cisco announced a similar partnership with Verizon last year and now has more than 25 of these arrangements with firms around the world.

Joseph Martin, director of solutions engineering at Sprint, said one of the ways his version of the service will distinguish itself is by including Sprint's fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) solution with every seat on the hosted service. Sprint has developed a more network-centric technique for integrating desk phone extensions with mobile phones, allowing Sprint mobile phone users to take and make calls without tying up two phone trunks every time, instead routing traffic over its MPLS network. "We're trying to appeal to enterprise users to do more with Sprint," Martin said, while still providing the flexibility to support mobile users on other carriers' networks.

The Sprint hosted unified collaboration service will also make use of the new Jabber clients, once they are available, to further simplify the setup of voice and video calls both from the desktops and mobile devices, Martin said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

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