Cisco C-Scape Highlights Web 2.0

Cisco has a new mantra – video, video, video. Attendees at this year’s C-Scape analyst conference heard session after session discuss Cisco’s role in collaboration and Web 2.0, as well as its video and telepresence capabilities. During his keynote presentation, John Chambers mentioned that video is “the killer app of Web 2.0.” Cisco asserted several times that the company is well positioned to lead in this area, and I would not bet against them in this regard.

Cisco did more than give lip service to the recurring themes of video, collaboration, unified communications and Web 2.0 – the company demonstrated in various instances how Cisco as a company uses these technologies to help it better communicate internally as well as with customers, partners, and suppliers. The company really eats its own dog food, or as I prefer to say, drinks its own champagne. For example, when I spoke with Marthin DeBeer and asked if he was traveling a lot, he responded that no, actually, he’s not – he’s been using Cisco’s telepresence capabilities to meet with customers and potential customers, which has greatly reduced his travel schedule. The next day he expanded on this and told the audience that he will be losing his airline platinum status and that his travel dropped by over 60%. Instead of having to take of his shoes at the airline security check, he now spends about four hours a day in telepresence sessions.

Charlie Giancarlo acknowledged that collaboration is not only a product or service that Cisco sells, but it’s also a business practice. Cisco is using collaboration as a technology to enable new business processes, including corporate governance and customer interactions, and is creating a model that hopefully customers will be able to emulate. One of the core elements of this is Cisco’s WebEx platform, providing a new business model that lets Cisco reach a new customer base with a differentiated service (software as a service). The WebEx platform will be expanded to support not only collaborative applications but also business applications delivered in a seamless way within the enterprise.

Not only is Cisco reaping the benefits of these capabilities, but its customers are as well. A key point that was reiterated by both Cisco and its customers is that process change along with the new technologies is having a tremendous impact. Filippo Passerini of Proctor & Gamble noted during a live telepresence session during the keynote presentation, that creating a business process that is communication enabled is helping P&G bring products to market faster, helping the company better compete. And Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT stated during the same telepresence session that companies’ productivity gains come from business process change, and the companies that combine technology and process changes account for the largest productivity increases.

There are obvious reasons why Cisco is pushing collaboration, video, online social networking, and Web 2.0 technologies – these technologies will, as Chambers notes, “chew up bandwidth.” While Cisco is a very altruistic company in terms of giving back to the community, its foray into Web 2.0 and the associated technologies has nothing to do with altruism, but rather the pullthrough for its core networking products. Charlie Giancarlo noted that video convergence – various forms of video coming together, (including telepresence and video communications, desktop video and digital signage, video surveillance, IPTV and video infrastructure, the video-enabled home, content storage and services, etc.) will cause the video market to reach over $50 billion by 2013, and cause a 3-5 times pull-through for Cisco in terms of revenues and networking products.

Cisco is being very vocal about its Web 2.0 aspirations, and is taking an early lead in this area in terms of video and collaboration, particularly based on its telepresence technology.

Expect to see more Web 2.0/collaboration/video initiatives in the near future. For example, Cisco’s new WebEx Connect offering for shared, collaborative workspaces will use Web 2.0 mashups to create custom spaces for particular business processes.

Cisco (and other vendors) will have to do some evangelizing to customers about the power of video and collaboration in order to generate more mass adoption of these technologies. But Cisco is doing a good job of producing internal use cases of how companies can improve productivity and better communicate, and I expect to see many others follow suit shortly.

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