Cisco Quad set to ship before November

Company takes social networking to the enterprise, promises iPhone, iPad apps

Cisco Systems said today that its social collaboration platform aimed at the enterprise will be released in the next four to five months.

Cisco Quad, which is designed to take popular social networking tools and tricks and meld them into a platform for business use, is due out in a limited release in the first quarter of Cisco's financial year 2011, which begins at the end of July. Quad initially will be available in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Doron Aronson, a spokesman for Cisco, said Quad will be generally available in about another year.

Quad pricing was not immediately available.

Murali Sitaram, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Enterprise Collaboration Platform, told Computerworld in a recent interview that the Web-based collaboration platform pulls together Facebook-like update posts, instant messaging, document sharing, video communication, microblogging and communities.

"We've borrowed from the Web 2.0 world," Sitaram said, noting that Cisco has been working on Quad for about three years. "It's a manifestation of social capabilities."

Social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter, have been hot commodities in the online world, where people are eager to share pictures of their kids and updates about their vacations and weekend parties. Enterprises, however, have been slow to see Web 2.0 tools as a resource that could help companies improve business and not just a way for employees to waste time.

Cisco hopes to appeal to companies that want their employees being social in a business atmosphere -- sharing documents, joining work communities and having video chats about work projects.

Cisco Quad, which went into a beta test with about 100 users last fall, is slated to also be available via native iPad and iPhone applications later this year.

Dan Olds, an analyst at The Gabriel Consulting Group, noted that Cisco is pushing out Quad just as major enterprises begin to wrap their heads around the idea of using Web 2.0 tools for business. Executives, he added, want to use Web 2.0 tools -- but they want to make sure they're for business use -- and that's what Cisco is aiming for the new platform.

Cisco Quad is designed to let users microblog inside the platform, with posts going out to colleagues who follow them. However, Sitaram pointed out that with a click, the in-house microblogs also can be posted on Twitter, the site that popularized microblogging.

And companies that don't want employees posting updates about certain topics outside of corporate confines can set up rules that will limit users' ability to make public posts, Sitaram added.

Quad includes a calendaring application, integration of voice-mail messages, a Facebook-like feed of updates from colleagues that users have "befriended," workgroup communities, document storage for collaborative work, live video and recorded video storage.

As Cisco tries to get a leg up in the fairly new enterprise collaboration arena, it'll have some competition from the likes of Microsoft's Sharepoint business collaboration platform and Google's collaboration and communications tool, Wave.

Cisco plans to continue adding to the Quad platform.

The company also announced that it's taking the wraps off its WebEx Connect IM, which is Cisco's first cloud-based instant messaging application. It will be available in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, Spain and Japan, by the end of June. Aronson noted that WebEx Connect IM will become part of the Quad platform at some future point. Pricing wasn't available.

Cisco also unveiled the Prosumer Video solution, which integrates FocalPoint, an online video workspace with the business-class, four-hour Cisco Flip MinoPRO camcorder. Aimed at enterprise users, it's designed to enable users to store and share video in the cloud.

Aronson said it's not yet clear whether Prosumer Video will become part of the Quad platform, but it is being billed as being part of Cisco's collaboration portfolio. It is slated to go on sale as a stand-alone product in August with a pricetag of $499 for the camcorder and $299 per seat for FocalPoint.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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