"Cisco is filling in a gap in their portfolio, the use case for small, agile teams that want robust mobile apps but don't need more complex services and tools like WebEx or dedicated hardware endpoints for every bit of work, even if they have them," Gartner's Preset said.
Still, he was somewhat surprised that Cisco decided to build a brand new app instead of extending existing collaboration and UC products.
"One might expect Cisco to continue to make incremental improvements to existing platforms and clients, so seeing them build something new is not altogether expected. What makes it fit well in Cisco's portfolio is the real-time communication element, the ability to spin up an ad hoc video chat in the app. Seeing Cisco as a player in mobile messaging and collaboration will take getting used to," he said.
Many of Cisco's collaboration and UC products have mobile components, including most notably the desktop Web conferencing tool WebEx and the Jabber enterprise IM system. It's unclear whether Project Squared will overlap and eventually possibly replace some of those existing mobile apps.
Preset doesn't view Project Squared as a WebEx replacement. "Project Squared is really a blend of mobile messaging, working with files, and real-time video in a room metaphor. I can envision a scenarios in which small, highly mobile teams use Project Squared for quick, ad hoc messaging and video, but still lean on WebEx for more complex, scheduled, and larger meetings," he said.
For now, Cisco is saying that the Project Squared app integrates with WebEx, as well as with third-party calendar apps, Microsoft's Active Directory, and Box's enterprise cloud storage and file sharing service. Specifically for Box, Project Squared users will be able to call up files from their Box repositories and view them within the app's team rooms without having to download them.
The Box integration is a good first step, but enterprises will also expect similar links with other cloud storage repositories where their employees keep their content, including Dropbox, Microsoft's OneDrive for Business and Google's Drive for Work, Preset said. Similarly, enterprises invested in Google Apps, Office 365 and other collaboration suites need to determine just how extensible and interoperable Project Squared will be.
"It is not yet obvious how well something like Project Squared will play alongside or augment those experiences. Squared users might be siloed unless there's integration," he said.
While the app will be free, it will have fee-based premium features. Cisco expects to release a finalized version of Project Squared in the second quarter next year.
At its Collaboration Summit, being held this week in Los Angeles, Cisco also announced the Telepresence IX 5000 Series, a high-end video conferencing system with three 70-inch screens, three 4K ultra high-definition cameras and a "theater quality" sound system with 18 speakers, a subwoofer and a microphone array with more than 17,000 micro holes.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.