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New Tools From Cisco; Lower Prices From Microsoft

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With a new and enhanced suite of collaboration tools unveiled today, Cisco Systems might steal customers from its partner, Microsoft.  Cisco's new corporate email service, WebEx Email, is one product likely to compete with Microsoft's Exchange email.  Cisco also released tools for instant messaging, document and video sharing, social networking, and videoconferencing.

Cisco is already a known competitor of Microsoft in the unified communications market.  However, a lack of presence on the desktop has been Cisco's weakness compared to Microsoft.  Cisco's newest releases attempt to eliminate that weakness.  WebEx conferencing services benefit from the technology gained in Cisco's Postpath acquisition.  The combined offering from Cisco and Postpath lets corporate users access their Outlook e-mail from a variety of browsers.  Cisco's new email services exist in the cloud and eliminate the need for Microsoft's Exchange servers.

Cisco put its WebEx Web conferencing services into the cloud earlier this year.  When the announcement was made, Cisco executives said they might end up competing with Microsoft's e-mail Exchange platform.  Recently, Microsoft lowered prices on its Exchange email and SharePoint collaboration systems.  Reports say this move was a response to IBM's Lotus Symphony and Google Apps.  However, the reports didn't recognize that Cisco was coming out with a competitive collaborative suite as well.  Perhaps Cisco was another contributing factor behind Microsoft's decision to drop prices.

Cisco's new releases include:

Cisco Show and Share: Provides video recording, editing, and sharing over a YouTube-style network.  

Cisco Enterprise Collaboration Platform: Cisco's own Facebook-like internal networking portal.  The platform includes instant messaging and facilitates the creation of blogs, wikis, and team pages.

The Cisco Intercompany Media Engine: Allows users from different companies to communicate and collaborate with each other over a secure network connection.

Intercompany Cisco Telepresence Directory: Shows users that are available for video chats.  WebEx users can use the directory to make video calls to users in a Cisco Telepresence room.  A Cisco Telepresence room is high-definition video conferencing room that costs around $300,000.

On another front, Cisco is trying to acquire Tandberg for $3 billion.  Tandberg's shareholders say that's not enough and they are planning to reject the offer if Cisco didn't increase its bid.

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