Cisco buys Assemblage to keep pushing modern collaboration

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Credit: Ed Schipul

Cisco this afternoon said it plans to acquire Assemblage, the latest in a confusing string of moves from the networking giant to update its portfolio of collaboration offerings.

Assemblage has developed three products -- a presentation service, video conferencing, and screen sharing -- that all operate from within a browser.

"They have solved some hard problems around instant collaboration and real-time collaboration," said Ben Renaud, who runs engineering for Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group. The products are easy to use and offer a great user experience, he said. So far, they've only been available in beta form and Cisco is still working out how it will handle existing users and future users, he said.

While some of the services from Assemblage are similar to what Cisco already offers in WebEx, technology from Assemblage brings those features "into the cloud age," he said. Rather than require users to install a plug in or other software, Assemblage's services are designed to work in any browser on any device.

The team from Assemblage will join Renaud's collaboration technology group, which is developing a number of new cloud-based collaboration services, he said.

Cisco appears to be pursuing a dual strategy. On one hand, it's trying to maintain older offerings like WebEx and give them a bit of a boost through partnerships with newer services like Jive. For instance, in May, Cisco said it was discontinuing its WebEx Social product, instead letting Jive users launch WebEx from within Jive.

At the same time, the company is hinting that it's developing new products built with more modern architectures that accommodate for the way people work -- from anywhere, on any device.

Assemblage may help in that regard. Cisco also acquired Collaborate.com late last year in a move that would also seem to help with those efforts. However, Cisco's plans for Collaborate.com aren't entirely clear. Initially, Cisco said that it wanted to let workers set up a video meeting with Collaborate.com and then share screens and documents. Last month, Cisco said Collaborate.com was mostly valuable for its mobile expertise. Renaud said today that Collaborate.com was mostly about messaging capabilities.

Cisco's strategy is to make acquisitions like Assemblage and Collaborate.com to fill in technology holes and gain some time to market advantage, he said. That's combined with a strong internal development program, he said.

His team has a strong focus on offering a great user experience. For now, Cisco's cloud collaboration suite consists of WebEx and Jabber. "We are developing a lot more," Renaud said.

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