Cisco has put out to pasture its WebEx Social ESN (enterprise social networking) suite, opting instead to partner with Jive Software.
Cisco and Jive are marketing a bundle that includes Cisco's WebEx Meetings and Jabber for online meetings, Web conferencing, IM and audio/video communications and Jive's ESN software, which provides "Facebook like" capabilities for workplace collaboration, like employee profiles, activity streams, microblogging, document sharing and group workspaces.
The bundle is already live with some customers, like Thomson Reuters, where 60,000 users can invite colleagues to and launch WebEx meetings from the Jive interface, as well as fire up a Jabber IM session from within Jive, the vendors said Thursday. Details on pricing were not immediately available.
Cisco and Jive plan to progressively link these products at a technology level so they work in a more integrated fashion. The companies will also offer consulting and services for customers that need customized implementations.
For Cisco, this partnership represents a shift in strategy. For years, the company pushed WebEx Social -- formerly called Quad -- as an integral part of its overall enterprise collaboration and unified communications (UC) product stack.
Clearly the ESN suite never gained as much traction in the market as Cisco expected it to, so the company is pulling its horse from this race, where competition is broad and intense among vendors like Microsoft with Yammer and Sharepoint; IBM with Connections; Tibco with Tibbr; and Zimbra with Telligent.
"That WebEx Social business was a struggle for Cisco," said Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst.
While monitoring ESN suite market adoption, Koplowitz kept tabs on WebEx Social, but didn't see it make enough progress. "I don't know if they had an issue selling the product, or if the problem was with how it worked once it was installed, but they were at it for a while," he said.
A clue as to why it didn't take off could be Cisco's strategy for pitching it to customers, which was a traditional, top-down approach via big, complex, on-premises IT projects that may have led to long sales and implementation cycles, Koplowitz said.
By contrast, rival Yammer, for example, found success via a bottom-up freemium model focused on quick, simple, self-service, end-user adoption of its cloud software. That sales and adoption strategy was one of the things that attracted Microsoft to Yammer, which it bought for more than $1 billion in mid-2012.
Instead, Cisco wants to double-down on WebEx Meetings and Jabber, and also on its UC products, with a particular emphasis on video conferencing, a segment of the market where it sees a ripe opportunity to outfit meeting rooms of all sizes with video collaboration systems.
"We're not going to rest until every single room in every single business all over the world has extraordinary video conferencing and collaboration equipment. That's our mission," Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, said in March when the company announced an array of new and improved video conferencing products.
The way Cisco sees it, most conference rooms either don't have conferencing equipment or, if they do, the systems don't work properly, so it's zeroing in on that underserved market. Developing WebEx Social further doesn't fit in with this strategy.
Cisco also faces stiff competition in this UC market -- especially from Microsoft and its Lync UC server, IBM, Avaya, Siemens' Unify, Alcatel-Lucent, Mitel and ShoreTel -- so it has its hands full battling these and other rivals.
Implicit in this shift in strategy is an acknowledgement by Cisco that despite being a big player in video conferencing for years -- excelling in the low-end of the market with its WebEx line of desktop products and in the high-end with its whole-room Tandberg systems -- it has left a lot of money on the table by not also targeting small offices and meeting rooms.
Although it will no longer sell WebEx Social, Cisco will continue to support the product until mid-2017.
This is the second high-profile partnership Cisco has struck in the enterprise collaboration market recently. In March, it announced a deal with Google to bundle WebEx Meetings with Chromebooks and also integrate it with Google Apps.
The partnership with Jive isn't exclusive, so Cisco is free to pursue similar deals with other providers of ESN software.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.