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Looking to create a complete video-enabled
collaboration solution for the new millennium, Cisco today introduced a handful
of new products and outlined how they would work together, enabling businesses
to increase productivity and reduce travel.

The announcements include nods to next-generation collaboration standards as
well as providing an answer to those who have said that Cisco’s video
conferencing has lagged in interoperability with solutions from other vendors.

Cisco’s announcements today follow the
announcement of its intention to acquire Tandberg
, a major rival in the
video conferencing space, a move by the networking giant that was lauded by
channel partners and widely thought to be an effort to make greater inroads
into the midmarket space. Cisco’s TelePresence system, with its hefty price tag
and private and proprietary network, has largely been considered a solution for
enterprises on the very high end.

Also, one Tandberg executive has told Channel Insider that Cisco’s TelePresence
system had not natively connected to standards-compliant systems. Cisco’s
announcements today take it on the road to remedy that problem, as it also
integrates the technology of another recent acquisition to make its own system
more open, secure and standards-compliant.

Cisco says that it will make its TelePresence HD video conferencing, its
unified communications and its Cisco WebEx online conferencing open and
interoperable, helping to facilitate collaboration among many different parties
both inside and outside of individual businesses.

Further, Cisco said that it is introducing enterprise social software and
hosted e-mail to make that collaborative experience even richer and more

Cisco calls the integration of all these technologies "medianets—networks
optimized for video and voice delivery that deliver better collaborative
experiences for end users across heterogeneous devices, applications and

Among today’s announced technologies are the following:

  • Cisco TelePresence WebEx Engage—a simple scheduling and one-button conferencing
    initiation solution with video integration between TelePresence and WebEx.
    Cisco says it combines TelePresence with the reach of the WebEx meeting
  • Cisco Telepresence Director—a Cisco-hosted director of endpoints,
    organizations and people with access to Cisco TelePresence
    endpoints.  Cisco says the director features a virtual assistant to
    help schedule meetings across more than 1,200 rooms at more than 80
    customers using intercompany Cisco TelePresence.
  • Cisco Intercompany Media Engine—enables communication over any IP network to
    maximize network efficiency and reduce costs. Cisco says it has submitted
    the solution to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) today for
    standardization. Capabilities include HD voice with built-in security.
    Cisco anticipates service providers will be able to use this to offer new
    business-to-business services, network capabilities and broader managed
  • Cisco Unified Communications System
    —adds support for more kinds
    of endpoints, including video- and Wi-Fi-enabled Cisco Unified IP phones
    and other smartphones via the Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator. The
    technology is available as on-premises, on-demand or a hybrid of the two.
  • Cisco WebEx Mail—a hosted e-mail solution from Cisco with native
    Microsoft Outlook interoperability, optimized mobile device support and
    browser-independent AJAX Web 2.0 access. Cisco says the mail comes with a
    highly scalable infrastructure that overcomes the limitations of
    traditional mailbox size. It’s available on demand.
  • Cisco’s integration of the XMPP
    standard, through its acquisition of Jabber
    —Cisco says this enables a highly secure,
    federated presence across its collaboration portfolio, starting with Cisco
    WebEx Connect Instant Messaging and Cisco Unified Presence 8.0. Cisco says
    the XMPP standard also enables support for third-party enterprise instant
    messaging clients and applications.

Cisco also introduced three new infrastructure
products that the company says will help customers convert their IP networks to
“medianets.” The Cisco Media Experience Engine 3500 and 5600 provide real-time
video transcoding, and offer features such as speech-to-text transcription of
videos, which makes them searchable as text and Web documents. Cisco says it
also enables TelePresence to interoperate with video conferencing devices from
other companies.

In addition, Cisco announced Cisco Pulse, a search platform that performs
dynamic tagging of content as it traverses the network.