Cisco joins Microsoft and flings out Skype-friendly collab app

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Cisco has partially put aside its rivalry with Microsoft and launched a new collaboration product that is compatible with Microsoft’s Skype for Business.

The Cisco Meeting Server allows customers to connect people in Cisco video rooms with others who are using Skype for Business. It was built using technology Cisco acquired from Acano, which it paid $700m (£532m) for earlier this year.

The company said the move represents “a huge leap forward”. In a statement it said: “We want to make connecting with others painless so you can get on with the task at hand and get great work done.”

It allows anyone to join a collaboration meeting regardless of whether they’re using competitors’ gear such as Avaya or Polycom, said Snorre Kjesbu, teamed up to launch a collaboration products and Microsoft’s Skype for Business.

Microsoft itself has been following a more collaborative approach with its former adversaries, under the leadership of Satya Nadella. Under Nadella, one of his first launches was to create an Office for iPad users.

Now it seems Cisco is to some extent following in Microsoft’s footsteps of being more open and collaborative with competitors.

Rowan Trollope, senior veep at Cisco, said: “Connecting should not be hard. But it has been, because certain vendors’ technologies have not played well with standards-based technologies, like Cisco’s industry-leading video systems.”

He continued: “We just fixed that, and the impact is huge. Just as you don’t think twice about whether an iPhone can call a Samsung Galaxy, enterprises need to know that everyone can join the meeting. And now they can.”

Andrew Heintz, manager of video engineering at US energy provider Exelon said: “Our users didn’t understand why they couldn’t connect Skype for Business and our Cisco video rooms. It didn’t make sense, and we needed to change that.

“Now they don’t even think about it—a meeting is a meeting is a meeting. If they are in the office, they usually join from a Cisco video room. If they are working from home, they join that same meeting and get the same experience—but they join from Skype for Business.”

Under Trollope, the collaboration technology group has refreshed the entire collaboration technology portfolio. He joined the biz in 2012, having previously led Symantec’s sales, marketing, and product development teams.

The news comes the same week as Cisco axed 5,500 staff – as the company pushes ahead with its plans to become primarily a software outfit. ®

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