Rob-Koplowitz By Rob Koplowitz

Great line from Rocky, one of my favorite movies, as Apollo Creed's manager recognizes that the underdog needs to be taken more seriously. In this particular scenario Cisco is the underdog. I'm currently listening to Cisco's vision for collaboration and in this market, they are an underdog. Microsoft is the 800 pound gorilla and IBM is a pretty big beast as well. In a market dominated by a small number of software powerhouses, why do we want to take Cisco seriously? For a few reasons:

  1. The market is going through multiple disruptions: the move to the cloud, the move to unified communications, the increasingly pervasive adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, etc. A market in disruption is an opportunity.
  2. Cisco is already a player. Really. WebEx is a big part of many organization's collaboration portfolio and was the first commercially successful SaaS based collaboration offering. They own a lot of eyeballs and they are good at SaaS. The Jabber acquisition was a key move that is just beginning to show full value by delivering standards based presence and IM across the entire portfolio.
  3. The network. There I said it and I don't think it's because I accidentally drank some kool-aid here at the event. By controlling content and communication artifacts at the network level there are some very interesting benefits. Cisco is already talking about the ability to track keywords, "tags", at the network level. How far can this be taken in the direction of driving policy and governance at the network level and make it an underlying service to multiple collaboration applications. 
  4. Cisco is good at acquiring and integrating companies and their technologies, so they may will continue to fill out the breadth of their collaboration portfolio. 
  5. Video is an emerging killer application and there is a lot open field to run in and Cisco is in a great position to take advantage of the opportunity.

The bottom line is that when Cisco enters your market in a meaningful way, and they are highly committed, you take them seriously. That said, they will face challenges:

  1. The big boys that dominate the market aren't going to rollover and play dead. Microsoft and IBM make a lot of money in this market and they have no intention of giving up any revenue opportunity.
  2. The stuff has to work well. It's not enough to have a compelling vision and architecture. It needs to be bullet proof for customers. Does Cisco build good stuff? Yes, but they still need to prove that this stuff, a lot of which is new, works.
  3. Can they sell it? The dog is networking, the tail is collaboration and that will always be the case at Cisco. Sometimes companies can overcome their legacy and enter new markets, sometimes they can't. Sales forces and channels need to be realigned and that is not always easy.

Everyone loves a good fight. This one could be very interesting.