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This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

This distinction between portable and mobile was at the heart of the demo that Cisco gave. The demo showed people working on any collaboration tool over any device from anywhere to anyone.

This morning kicked off the first day of Cisco’s annual collaboration summit. The keynote was given by Barry O’Sullivan, who gave us a nice history of innovation followed by a demo with Barry and Sean Curtis (*gasp* not Jim Grubb!!) where they showed what collaboration in a post PC world looks like. It was a slick demo where Cisco showed workers collaborating over a variety of Cisco and non Cisco devices (I didn’t see any Microsoft devices…hmmm ) using a combination of tools such as video, web conferencing, chat, presence, etc. This demo was one of the better ones that I’ve seen in a while and is being driven by a shift to true mobility–not just portability (and I’ll explain the difference).

For years now, there has been this move toward trying to enable the “any” vision. That is, any task, over any device anywhere the worker is; and we’ve largely accomplished this by making workers portable. That is, IT gives a worker a corporate issued Windows laptop and a corporate issued Blackberry running through a BES server accessing standardized corporate applications. The laptop had all of a worker’s information and applications loaded onto it and the user took these devices wherever. Sounds good? Well this “portable” model was great when the only devices a worker carried were corporate-issued, and that was sufficient for the majority of people.

The portable worker’s toolkit:

Well times have, of course, changed. The non standard device is now the norm. A mobile worker’s toolkit includes a combination of smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, corporate devices and a bunch of applications. True mobility is the ability to work from anywhere over any device and then be able to switch them when the user wants. This breaks the link between “wireless” and “mobility”. In fact, you could have a worker who is at a desk that starts a video on a tablet and the moves it to the PC or moves other content around between devices. The element of content mobility gives us this truly mobile world (versus portable).

This distinction between portable and mobile was at the heart of the demo that Cisco gave. It showed several people collaborating on a single project where individuals had to be brought into a meeting and then dropped off in an ad hoc manner to prepare for a customer presentation. The demo showed people working on iPhones, iPads, laptops, Cius tablets and other devices. Any collaboration tool over any device from anywhere to anyone–this moves us closer to that “any” vision of true mobility.

The mobile worker’s toolkit:

Collaboration Summit’s “post-PC” positioning was anchored with product announcements that revolve around cloud and mobility, and I’m a firm believer that cloud drives mobility and mobility drives cloud. If we’re really going to move into this cross-platform, multi-OS, consumerized, mobilized, virtual world, cloud delivery is really the only cost effective, scalable way to do this.

Cisco’s post-PC vision was anchored by a couple of significant product announcements around Jabber and WebEx.

The WebEx announcements center around evolving the platform to being the hub of the entire meeting experience–that is, handling all of the pre-meeting tasks such as document distribution, agenda distribution, recordings, playbacks and notes. WebEx will also offer two way video now with many devices such as iPads, the iPhone and of course, Cisco’s Cius tablet.

For Jabber, Cisco released a customizable web browser plug in that enables developers to embed the collaboration capabilities into any web based application. Users can access functions such as chat, click-to-call and click-to-video through any browser. This is key to enabling a mobile (not portable) workforce.

Although WebEx and Jabber were the main announcements, Cisco also announced their Callway video service again, and Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), although both of these products have been announced previously. Both products leverage the cloud to make it easier for customers to try using video and collaboration applications at a low price point.

The Callway service is extremely important to Cisco to get customers to use video and link into other Telepresence systems. Video is sticky, but getting people to try it can often be a challenge. A sub $100 per month price point removes cost as a barrier.

If we’re not in the post PC world today, we’re certainly on the cusp of it, and the vision and products that Cisco demonstrated at this year’s Collaboration Summit are certainly in line with where the industry is going.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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