Wyatt Kash | Editor's Desk: New deal on collaboration

Last month's round of big technology deals sent some interesting signals.

Wyatt Kash

Last month's round of big technology deals sent some interesting signals arcing across the federal IT landscape.

First, Oracle announced it planned to buy performance management software provider Hyperion. A week later, Microsoft said it would acquire Tellme Networks, a provider of voice services for enterprise customer service and voice-enabled mobile search. Then Cisco Systems announced its plan to acquire WebEx. Of the three deals, the Cisco move is the most intriguing.

On the surface, WebEx gives Cisco a well-established teleconferencing platform to support Cisco's vision for 'unified communications.' That vision involves bundling mobile, Internet and other services into a single system'part of Cisco's plan to expand beyond supplying networking gear.

The Cisco-WebEx deal, however, clearly raises the stakes for businesses delivering collaboration programs. And it highlights how important collaboration is becoming as the battleground for workforce productivity tools.

Microsoft echoed a similar refrain about how its deal with Tellme would enhance Microsoft's portfolio of unified communication tools. Just last month, at Microsoft's public sector CIO conference, CEO Steve Ballmer stressed the importance of improving software that facilitates electronic meetings. He lamented the fact that 'videoconferencing still isn't working unless you spend gobs of dollars' doing it.

While WebEx is best known for offering a simple way for people to conduct remote meetings and share presentations online, the service also allows workers to hold secure conference calls and exchange data online. In addition, it now offers WebOffice-based applications.

What's less widely recognized is WebEx's work with a company called EverDream to develop on-demand desktop management that can take control of the desktop for security and virus protection upgrades, patch installation and help desk issues.

Many expect Cisco will upgrade WebEx's collaboration tools, and in so doing, take yet another swipe at Microsoft's desktop stronghold. But Cisco's latest move may in fact represent a more significant counter threat to Google. Engineering collaboration tools on top of converging communications platform puts Cisco in an interesting intersection with the workforce of the future.

However these deals turn out, this much seems sure: Collaboration tools are going to get a lot more attention.

Wyatt Kash, Editor in chief

E-mail: wkash@1105govinfo.com

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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