Cisco's WebEx Acquisition: A War Cry Against Microsoft

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Includes: CSCO, MSFT
by: Sramana Mitra

Last week’s acquisition of Webex (WEBX) by networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) is a clear war cry against Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). What battlefield will this war be fought on?

My take is that collaboration will become the battlefield for these two titans’ epic battle. I have already written about this last week.

Now I want to add to the theme by exploring companies that Cisco needs to acquire to complete the Webex offering and really make this a substantive competition.

Cisco needs to add the other collaborative functions to Webex’s Online Meeting and Conferencing capabilities, especially Shared Workspace and Project Management.

Microsoft’s Sharepoint offering is very strong in the former category. Others who have such offerings include the eRoom capability from EMC (EMC) via their Documentum acquisition. On the latter, project management, I have just covered a small company called eProject that is going to start raising money in short order. If I were Cisco I would acquire this one before they raise more money and make the deal unnecessarily more expensive. This would position them to go against Microsoft Projects, a widely used application that will need a lot of energy and commitment to budge.

What else? Well, the Tribe (Social Networking) and Five Across (Social Media Content Management) acquisitions have already brought under their umbrella capabilities for building ad-hoc communities within project groups, customer focus groups, etc., which need to be integrated into the collaboration suite.

Overall, I am thrilled by the direction Cisco could take by assembling these pieces, and finally, realizing the level of computer - telephony integration that would make the online collaboration dream a reality. Microsoft hasn’t been successful. I’d like to give Cisco a chance.

And as that dream takes shape, the company that I hope would start loosening its grip on business travelers’ weary bodies and frustrated psyches is United Airlines. The less that is said about this clueless giant, the better. I would like to see a meaningful drop in airline company revenues due to business travel and some of that revenue being picked up by the online collaboration vendors, and the rest passed on to enterprises as savings.