Cisco's Big UC Autumn

Carl Weinschenk

Much of the autumn has been spent watching Cisco spend money and make product introductions.

The biggest deal was its move on Tandberg, the Norwegian videoconferencing company. The deal was announced Oct. 1, but stalled as most Tandberg investors withheld approval. Last Monday, Cisco said that it raised its offer by 11 percent-to $3.4 billion-and that more than 40 percent of investors had accepted.

BusinessWeek discusses the offer and clearly positions video as the point of the arrow for Cisco's future endeavors. Video is perhaps the most demanding application to be sent through an IP network, and one on which all the other pieces of a unified communications program can attach themselves.


The story makes the point that Tandberg brings something to the table beyond its products. A major coming of age for any new discipline is the evolution from company-only operation to being able to interoperate with gear from other vendors. Tandberg, the story says, is well positioned for this vital process, which is the first step in the long process of setting standards. The long-term winners and losers are determined, to some extent, by which vendors' proprietary protocols can best be spun into standards. Part of the rationale for the Tandberg acquisition almost certainly is the desire to have a greater say in the standards-setting process that is bound to come.

A deeply related Cisco move this season was the introduction of 61 collaboration products earlier this month. Besides inducing nightmares in business and trade reporters, the onslaught was aimed, according to Computerworld, at integrating video with IM and presence. Such a mass introduction, which may be unprecedented, leaves the selection of the most important entries in the eye of the beholder. The writer of this piece and the folks he cites mention WebEx Mail, Unified Communications version 8.0, Cisco Show and Share, the Enterprise Collaboration Platform and Cisco Pulse as intriguing and important additions.


It's important to note that Cisco isn't the only UC-related company making news. It all goes to show that telepresence and videoconferencing has taken root. InformationWeek does a good job of tracing its video antecedents, which go all the way back to the Pleistocene era of the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. The story reports on two deals in addition to Tandberg/Cisco, which the writer refers to as "the mother of all video communications acquisitions." BT and Polycom have entered into a three-year marketing deal and Logitech is acquiring LifeSize for $405 million.


The writer points out that the prices that Logitech and Cisco agreed to, when compared to the targeted companies' current revenues, suggests a sector on the upswing:

The fact that the acquiring companies are willing to pay so much for video communications expertise underscores their belief that video conference, telepresence, and other versions of business video communications will continue to grow robustly.

Indeed. UC is in a great position simply because it makes so much sense. It is, in essence, the logical end point toward which each of its discreet technologies aims. The bottom line is that unified communications will grow as long as IT and telecommunications continue to evolve.

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