The Year Ahead for Cisco

Last week, Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala blogged at No Jitter on his predictions for Cisco and the firm’s unified communications strategy during its 2011 fiscal year, which started at the beginning of last month.

The whole post is worth reading. Kerravala sees pervasive video, cloud-based UC and social networking as the three areas that the company will push this year. He provides good insight into each of them and positions the company against its competitors.

Cisco, of course, has made and been the subject of much UC-related news during the past few months. Last week, Polycom announced that it hired away Joseph Burton. He had been the CTO of Cisco’s UC business. Insiders – including Forrester Senior Analyst Henry Dewing, whom I spoke with last week — consider this to be a significant move. It’s mostly cast as a positive for Polycom. If that’s so, it must be a negative for Cisco. In August, the company introduced the Cius, a business-oriented tablet. Of course, the purchase of Tandberg, a video-oriented vendor, was Cisco’s biggest UC-related piece of news during the past fiscal year.

On a less dramatic note, Cisco this week introduced small business products and services. The eight introductions – gear is aimed at creating small business networks, video monitoring equipment and IP phones – all support UC in various ways. The introductions, according to Sci-Tech Today, include the Small Business 300 Series Managed Switches, SPA 300 Series IP Phones the Office Manager desktop administrator, the VC 220 Dome IP Video Camera and The Advanced Video Monitoring System.

This seems like a pivotal year for unified communications. Of course, that probably is true every year. But in this case, the push toward standards as demonstrated by the formation of the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF) – something that Dewing focused on during our conversation – creates a sense that the nature of the competition is about to change. Research and development and competition always will exist and always will be intense. If a standards regime is created in UC, the nature of that R&D and resulting competition will be changed.

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