Cisco Courts SMBs Through Unified Communications

Cisco, which is having a lot of fun introducing products this season, is at it again. The rationale – as if one is needed – is the anniversary of the company’s $100 million investment in the small and medium-size business market.

Unified communications is an important element of Cisco’s foray into the SMB market. It’s a vital area for any vendor, especially one with as varied a menu of offerings as Cisco. SMBs, especially when the phrase is inclusive of everything south of enterprises and north of SOHOs, represent the largest segment of businesses in the United States. Until recently, however, they were comparatively difficult to market to.

That’s changed, partly because of emergence of IP and partly because of the maturation of the enterprise market. Cisco gets it. The Register, in its story on the introduction, quotes Vice President of Small Business Worldwide Sales Andrew Sage on voice-based extensions to the Hosted Small Business Communications platform:

There’s a lot of great services opportunities and new technologies that’s bringing unified communications and IP voice down into the small business customer space.

Along with the products, the company announced financing options for partners and small businesses. Among other things, Cisco Capital is offering zero-percent financing of Cisco UC for small businesses. The “same-as-cash” offer is good through next July and has an end-of-lease ownership option.

Cisco’s aggressiveness is aimed at tapping into this promising market as it begins shedding the recession. The way is not necessarily clear for SMBs, however. In October, Yankee Group Analyst Steve Hilton discussed the impact of the economic problems on SMBs. The interesting results were a bit contradictory, and perhaps reflected the difference between adoption of UC-capable technologies and their actual knitting together in a UC service. The Yankee Group found that 15 percent of SMBs expect “severe” reductions in UC investment during the next year or two, though 15 percent site collaborative applications – a category that deeply related to UC – as a priority going forward.

Just as those hoping to sell into the SMB community must customize their approach, SMBs must keep abreast of events in the vendor community. bMighty offers a nice overview of what has been a big season in the telepresence sector, an important staple of the overall UC category, and suggests what the moves mean for SMBs.

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