Tools & Technologies

Cisco Quad: Peeling Back the Layers

Last year Cisco started talking about a forthcoming product for the enterprise market: Cisco “Enterprise Collaboration Platform”. It was a perfectly descriptive name, albeit not particularly attention grabbing. In the past few weeks, Cisco has peeled back some of the layers around the forthcoming platform, and has given it a real product name: Cisco Quad. Named after a meeting place at a university or campus, Cisco Quad aims to provide the new meeting place for business people at work.

Capability Review
Cisco Quad offers the following capabilities:

  • Quick Updates … A “Facebook-like” way of sharing updates with other people in your firm, about work activities, projects, meetings, and so on. These can be filtered in various ways–such as seeing everything that’s going on, seeing updates just from contacts, and viewing updates from communities that the person is involved in.
  • Instant Messaging … Real-time instant text messaging with others in the firm, through integration with Cisco’s instant messaging offerings. Cisco has strength in the IM market, and Quad provides a new place to surface those capabilities to end users within the context of the rest of their work.
  • Voice Mail Integration … Quad can also display a user’s voice mail messages on their main page. Voice mail is another area of strength for Cisco.
  • Profiles of People … Quad offers a Profiling capability for people, and adds a visual navigation approach made popular through Cover Flow on the Apple Mac. Using a mouse you can scroll through the list of contacts, but equally, with Quad to support the iPhone and iPad, the visual metaphor will translate very well for finger surfing. See Cisco Quad – Meet the Team to take the Profile section for a swipe (or below for a snap).

  • Document Sharing … The ability to share documents with others, through a “Document Library”. Given that Microsoft calls the same capability a “Document Library” in SharePoint, Cisco obviously believes it’s a sufficiently generic term.
  • Integrated Video Communication … Cisco is investing heavily in video communication capabilities, enabling face-to-face-like interaction over a Cisco-powered network. Quad offers the opportunity to interact with video-empowered users.
  • Communities … A sub-area of Quad (“meet me on the bench by the tree”, perhaps) that enables people with a particular interest or outcome to collate and use specific content. It’s unknown whether a “Community” is the target place for projects to be carried out, or whether it is just a “community of interest or practice” area. If it’s both, I’d question the naming. If it’s just the latter, then fine.
  • Calendaring … The ability to schedule meetings with other people, and see who’s coming to the meeting. It appears as though this calendaring capability is integrated through from Microsoft Exchange (2003, 2007, 2010), rather than being a native capability of Quad. How long this will remain an integration remains to be seen. It would be beneficial to Cisco to become a member of CalConnect.
  • Mobile Device Access … Cisco has said there will be “native iPad and iPhone applications” available later this year, but nothing about special access via BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, or other devices. Given the enterprise focus of Quad, I’d like to see movement around early support for the BLackBerry.
  • Federated Search … Quad offers search capabilities for stuff that’s in Quad, as well as stuff that’s in existing SharePoint and Documentum repositories. Given the increased competition between Cisco and Microsoft, the SharePoint integration is indicative of a desire to help organizations that have seen viral spread of SharePoint retain the content that’s in there, but quickly gain capabilities that can take the firm into the future.
  • IT Control … Quad includes capabilities that firms require for policy management (via Cisco Enterprise Policy Manager), scalability, security, and ease of administration. Apparently all actions are monitored and retained in a database, for auditing requirements.

Vishnu Varma, a Cisco Technical Marketing Engineer, provided an demonstration of Cisco Quad in March 2010. In the video (below), you’ll see and hear about the Watch List (an aggregation of the key things for a user; perhaps the modern day “email inbox”), calendar aggregation, how to initiate real-time communication with co-workers, and more.

At 0:30 in the video, Vishnu says “In the modern day world, people are really used to the Facebooks and the LinkedIn’s of the world, so wouldn’t it be nice to have something really similar when they come into work at their offices.” I know it was a quickly-shot video at VoiceCon, but I have my doubts about that being the best positioning statement.

Cisco also released a new Flip video camera, the Flip MinoPRO. It can store up to 4 hours of video, and is aimed at the business market. When a user shoots video on the MinoPRO, it can be uploaded to Cisco’s FocalPoint product, and these videos can be integrated with Quad.

Strategic Analysis
I wrote a strategy analysis report on Cisco’s moves in the collaboration market late last year. For details, see Cisco for Collaboration: Vendor and Product Analysis (November 2009).

Extending the analysis in that report, I would say:

  • This is clearly a “beyond email” play, and Cisco hopes that Quad will provide sufficient functionality to enable enterprise users to re-create a new way of working and interacting around opportunities, new happenings, and content. The hope is that people will be able to transition out of their email inbox as the focal place for interacting and working, to do all of this in Quad instead.
  • Cisco is a big vendor, with an existing go-to-market channel, a healthy bank account, and global name recognition. Quad as a new enterprise collaboration platform comes with natural advantages as a consequence of being a Cisco offering. All of the vendor viability things don’t have to be queried.
  • Cisco says it has been working on Quad for 3 years, and that Quad is in beta testing with a small number of clients already. Those are good data points, but remember that it is a Version 1 product. I’d like to see a few more years of product development and early customer feedback before saying whether to jump ship or not. If you have an existing relationship with Cisco for IM, video and voice mail, however, perhaps some exploration sooner rather than later is in order.
  • The support for Apple iPhones and iPads, along with Cisco’s own Flip MinoPRO camcorder, deserves particular thought. In the email world, the BlackBerry is the key mobile device. There is a keyboard. It is text-centric. In the “social collaboration” world, as a consequence of richer interaction possibilities, perhaps the BlackBerry will give way to touch devices plus video capture and sharing.

Finally, Cisco is hosting a (3am my time!!) webinar next week for analysts, providing an update on its collaboration business. If there is anything further to report, I’ll let you know.

Categories: Tools & Technologies