Cisco has scooped up Collaborate.com and has plans for a broad collaboration offering that integrates document sharing, video calling, screen sharing, task management, IM, and more into a single offering. The challenge will be whether Cisco can adopt Collaborate.com’s model that makes it easy for users to get started and for the service to go viral in an organization.
Collaborate.com lets its users bring a variety of third party cloud services, like Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Apple iCloud, and others into its workstream. It's also had a heavy focus on mobile from the start, with iPhone and Android apps.
“We stumbled over them a couple years ago and said, ‘this is good,’” said Jens Meggers, vice president and general manager of Cisco Cloud Collaboration. “Now I’m using it every day.”
Cisco expects to continue to integrate with third party services like Box and Dropbox. “Customers need to have a choice. You can’t force them into one way to share files,” he said. Cisco could integrate other third party services, depending on customer feedback, he said.
But the key vision is to integrate Cisco products so that a group of coworkers can set up a video meeting within Collaborate.com, share screens and documents, and make notes. Once the call ends, members could easily restart it on the fly to finish up additional work or refer back to information exchanged during the meeting.
That kind of offering, however, requires that a business use some of Cisco’s unified communications and Webex products, which typically require big upfront investments. Meggers couldn’t say exactly how the company plans to offer Collaborate.com – whether the Cisco sales team would call on IT to make the sale, in the traditional sales process, or if individuals could sign up on the fly.
“We certainly want to make it as easy as possible to get in,” he said. “In the mobile world that’s normal, it’s the PC world that’s always restricting things. I don’t see us restricting it but we have to work through the go-to-market details on that.”
Some users of Webex Social seemed confused about how the acquisition might affect them, judging from a few comments on Cisco’s blog post announcing the acquisition. But Meggers said the two products are very different. “It’s a different use case,” he said. Webex Social is more of a social platform while Collaborate.com is very focused on using mobile and cloud services to get work done, he said.
For now, Collaborate.com is closed to new sign ups. Collaborate.com is backed by Google Ventures and only just launched in June.