Cisco will package and deliver enterprise collaboration capabilities via a mobile and Web app built to replicate the ease of use of consumer software but designed for ad hoc, workplace team interaction.
The app, called Project Squared, joins a growing number of "consumerized" enterprise mobile and Web apps built by startups and designed to put a spin on collaboration, messaging, productivity, video conferencing and communications.
Some of those include Cotap for enterprise mobile messaging, Quip for word processing and spreadsheets, Slack for chat room-like communication, SmartSheet for project and task management and Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network for cloud-based video conferencing.
Gartner analyst Adam Preset views Project Squared as competing more directly with enterprise mobile messaging apps modeled after consumer messaging apps, like Whatsapp. "Cisco seems influenced by this trend and, like competitors in the enterprise mobile messaging space, can make a good case that Project Squared can help the workforce be more agile, respond more quickly to change, and reduce some the friction that comes along with more formal and structured enterprise IT solutions," he said via email. "This market is still developing and dynamic and there's room for competition."
A beta version of Project Squared is being announced at Cisco's Collaboration Summit on Monday and made available for free download for iOS and Android devices. The app, which will also be available for MacOS computers and whose Web version works on Chrome, Firefox and Safari, lets users communicate via text chat, audio and video, hold multi-party meetings and share content.
Cisco's motivation in building Project Squared, according to analyst Tim Banting from Current Analysis, was to develop a tool that is as familiar and friendly to use as the consumer apps people use for their personal lives.
"Vendors such as Cisco, have recognized the Consumerization of IT and are taking steps to replicate the simplicity and usability of these apps without having to compromise on business requirements such as security and manageability. Cisco's Project Squared is such an example," Banting said via email.
Project Squared users can launch "team" rooms, invite fellow employees or outside collaborators and begin to interact in the various ways made possibly by the app. Files shared via the app are hosted in the Cisco cloud, which also provides what the company describes as "end to end" content encryption.
Project Squared gives Cisco a place at the enterprise mobile app table, since it's free for anyone to download, so employees can start to use it without necessarily getting approval from their IT departments.
Project Squared also complements Cisco's collaboration and UC (unified communications) product stack by extending it to mobile devices. Cisco already offers voice communications, video conferencing, IP telephony, IM and Web meetings via a variety of hardware devices and cloud and on-premise software for desktops, small and medium-size meeting rooms, and large conference rooms.
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