Cisco Blogs

Maximizing Mobile Collaboration for the Post PC Era

December 14, 2011 - 13 Comments

Almost every customer that I speak to is looking at the opportunity that new mobile devices – smart phones and tablets – bring to increase collaboration and drive new business capabilities.  And consistently, customers are asking these five questions:

  1. How closely will the UC capabilities on my mobile device not just meet, but exceed the experience on my desktop?
  2. Will users be able to make and receive calls on their mobile devices anywhere in the world as if they were using their desk phone?
  3. Is video to the mobile device available at all, and if so is it really “business-ready” or is it more of a poor imitation of the TelePresence experience?
  4. Are Wi-Fi access points evolving to better handle the increased traffic and usage patterns that come from adding mobile devices on the network?
  5. If I choose a cloud provider for UC-as-a-Service, will that in any way limit my ability to deliver UC capabilities to a mobile device?

For Cisco, these questions are easy to answer because mobility and user experience are not an afterthought.  Our collaboration development philosophy is people-centric – that is driven by the user experience.  And in the post PC era where tablets and mobile phones are primary work devices for many during each day, that experience must not just be equivalent to the desktop – but maximize the unique opportunity that these new form factors provide.  This is a fundamental change in the user experience model and Cisco is maximizing the potential of this new class of mobile devices.

With Cisco Jabber, the UC capabilities are consistent across PC, Mac, tablets and phones.  Users can make and receive voice calls using VOIP wherever they want to work, and HD video to the tablet allows users to join a TelePresence session without having to be in the room and without having to sacrifice video quality.  Voice and video simply work because that is how the clients were designed from the ground up, as part of our collaboration architecture, and because we invested to make the user experience rich and complete. Cisco is also investing aggressively in a new class of Wi-Fi access points with all new capabilities that Jabber can take advantage of because these mobile devices are inherently wireless. Lastly, with Jabber, we support a full range of UC deployment models across public, private, and hybrid clouds with no change in the mobile user experience because the network is the same under each of these deployment scenarios.

I was particularly struck by the differences in development philosophy between Cisco and Microsoft when I saw the Lync mobile client announcement this week.  Given that Microsoft has been without a mobile client for UC since the Windows Mobile 6.5 client for OCS release a few years ago, I expected Microsoft to really embrace the 500,000+ Android devices activated daily or the more than 40 million Apple iPads and iPhones that will be sold this holiday season with a full mobile UC client for Lync.

Instead, Microsoft released a mobile Lync client which:

  • Does not have VOIP calling (everything is a call back service over the mobile network)
  • Does not have video capabilities to or from the device
  • Does not have document sharing capabilities
  • Does not have the ability to dial numbers from the Microsoft cloud-based Lync service

Simply put, what Microsoft released this week is not a mobile UC client at all.  It is at best an IM and presence client with a call back service – pretty much the same functionality as what Windows Mobile 6.5 had several years ago.  If there was ever a data point that showed how in denial Microsoft is regarding what mobility is all about, this has to be it.  In the face of tens of millions of customers purchasing iOS and Android devices every quarter and Windows Phone OS market share crumbling rapidly, Microsoft still could not bring itself to offer a truly rich mobile UC client experience on these new devices.   One has to wonder if their priorities are properly set or whether they have the skills to do it.  Apparently “first, best and only on Windows” isn’t just a marketing slogan after all.

Don’t lock yourself into Microsoft’s Windows-centric approach; sample Cisco’s UC approach by clicking here to see videos of Jabber in action and to learn more about our mobile application products.

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  1. Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog post. Awesome.

  2. I agree that having a reliable, intuitive, end-user experience is critically important. It is also important to deliver the capabilities that
    people need to be productive from any location and on any device. We believe we are doing both.

  3. Just to add my 2 cents here. I have worked with both Cisco and MSFT products and both vendors have their pros and cons. Cisco definitely has work to do with unifying their products,under one GUI interface. I do see the need for 1 client to IM/Voice/Video as opposed to two clients right now on the IPhone. I know this is in the works to be sorted out. Having said that MSFT isn’t without its fair share of issues. First of all they dont have all the enterprise class contact center features, they still advocate partnerships with aspect, avaya and anyone but Cisco to fill that gap. I love their QOE marketing slick, QOS matters at the end of the day. We have designed large networks and I can tell you the network layer matters(and it isn’t plumbing as MSFT points it out). I am chuckling on the licensing comment posted earlier because if any vendor should know how complicated licensing is, it is MSFT. Heck thats’ why they have licensing specialists that do just that..I am not saying Cisco hasn’t made licensing complicated with CUWL/UCL but MSFT isn’t a cake walk either. Access outside VPN is definitely one where MSFT has done a good job although I have talked to so many customers on this feature and honestly many do require VPN to access data internally. So if I am doing that anyway then my client will work through that tunnel. The one big benefit to not needing VPN is when as a contractor you need your tunnel to a client environment leavin your UC client to work outside VPN. This too is in the works for the PC clients(I can do this already on the mobile clients by having any connect launch automatically in the background) and in fact doesn’t require edge servers like MSFT needs for A/V/IM/Presence. MSFT has no story around VDI(Just IM/Presence), Cisco has made an effort to start plugging that gap. On the video front well, MSFT has embraced proprietory codecs like RT Video and then licensed it to Polycom for interop. The rest of the world follows standards bases H264 video. At the end of the day I have made feature matrix till we go blue in the face. Both vendors have some strong points and some weak points. The customers will whet out which vendor wins…to the point that Cisco is marketing. Are you serious that MSFT isn’t a marketing machine in it’s own right…every company has to market and up sell their products. Often it also comes down to what’s our background…you grow up on Cisco for 10 yrs you might have a stronger passion around their systems, likewise you grow up around MSFT and administer their products you might feel their story is better.

  4. I saw this posting from a Tweet on my phone the other night and it intrigued me, especially as it called out Microsoft specifically.

    Firstly it links to videos of seeing Jabber in action. I tried to view them on my smartphone (Windows Phone 7) but they they wouldn’t work. OK, as WP7 is fairly new, I thought it wasn’t supported so I went over to my iPad. Oops, no go either. You need Flash to view them.

    So, in this “Post PC era” that Cisco likes to talk about, I took my tablet PC running Windows 8 (7 would have worked just as well) and viewed them just fine.

    Lesson 1, if you are going to talk about a Post PC era, at least make sure your website is fully compatible with “Post PC” devices.

    OK, so after finally watching the videos with the promise from Michael’s post that I would see “With Cisco Jabber, the UC capabilities are consistent across PC, Mac, tablets and phones,” I was a little disappointed as I was expecting to see something special.

    I always that the the U in UC stood for Unified. From the dictionary, Unified comes from the word “Unify” – to make or become a single unit.

    This is where Michael’s statement falls apart. Not all of the Post PC platforms are equal and they each require a varying number of apps.

    iPhone – Requires VPN (preferably Cisco AnyConnect), Cisco Jabber (provides Voice), Cisco Jabber IM for iPhone (for IM) and Cisco WebEx Meeting center (for web and video conference.)

    iPad – AnyConnect (VPN), WebEx for iPad (web and video conference.) Sorry, no voice or IM for iPad unless you use the iPhone clients which never scale well on the bigger screen.

    Android Phone – VPN required, Cisco Jabber for Android (voice only) and WebEx (web/video conf.) Sorry Android phone user, no IM for you either.

    Android Tablet (I used my Honeycomb powered tablet to check Google Market) – uh, oh. WebEx only. No IM or voice here.

    I could go on, but I won’t… I don’t even want to mention the back end licensing or hardware that you will need to make this work either.

    The moral of this story is – if you want to live in a glass house, then please don’t throw stones.

    Lync Mobile – a unified app with a consistent user experience that just works.
    Cisco Mobile – a bunch of apps duct taped together with some having more functionality than others.

    With this being a moderated comment system, I doubt I will see this posted, but vent over…

    • Hi Darryl, Thank you for your reply.

      Sorry you had trouble accessing the videos. My understanding is that they are being made available in other formats, but perhaps we still have work to do on that front. Let me help clarify matters regarding the solutions.

      It is true that we have more extensive mobile collaboration functionality on some platforms and devices than others.

      IM – We have delivered IM on iOS, Blackberry, Nokia and Cisco Cius and we are working on Android.

      Web Conferencing – We have call-back, view application/desktop and manage the meeting on iOS, Blackberry, Android, Cisco Cius. We also have capabilities to let you see and share video on iPad today

      Voice – Our mobile client software lets you place and receive business calls through your Cisco IP telephony system whether using your corporate Wi-Fi network, other Wi-Fi networks, or a mobile data network. You can also manage calls, access and play voice messages and initiate conferences. These capabilities are available on iOS, Android, Cisco Cius, Blackberry, and Nokia.

      Video – Available on Cisco Cius today. We will be delivering video on the iPad next and then on other mobile platforms and devices.

      Security – A VPN client can be used, but is not required for IM or Web conferencing. The voice and video capabilities require a secure connection.
      This can be accomplished using Cisco AnyConnect. We also have built-in application-based security on the Android app. In this case you do not require a separate VPN client. We are in the process of extending this “secure connect” capability to the other platforms.

      We choose to deliver dedicated apps that work seamlessly together, ­ launch a WebEx conference from a Jabber IM chat, start a Jabber IM chat from a contact in the Jabber phone directory, and so on.

      I hope this helps.

  5. I think my post says it all here:

    Like all cisco products (I think you guys make great networking gear, but you are definitely not a software provider), you can introduce the largest bullet list of features, however you will never have a reliable, intuitive end user experience.

    This is simply because Cisco does not focus on end user experience, they focus on how much hardware they can make you buy in order to use their functionality.



    • Hi Randy,

      Thank you for your comment.

      We agree that having a reliable, intuitive, end-user experience is critically important. It is also important to deliver the capabilities that
      people need to be productive from any location and on any device. We believe we are doing both.

      One key element of our approach to delivering an outstanding mobile experience is to leverage the native device capabilities. For instance, a
      VoIP call using Jabber for iPhone mimics the native iPhone calling experience. User experience also includes the ability to provide high
      quality and interoperable audio and video. A key differentiator for Cisco is our able to leverage our leadership in networking and unified
      communications to deliver secure, clear and reliable voice and video communications across room-based video endpoints, desk phones and
      desktop and mobile clients.

      Our focus on end-user experience has resulted in Cisco WebEx for iPad being chosen by Apple as one of the 5 “App Store Rewind 2011” best business apps of
      the year ( The accomplishments go beyond awards and in fact, our WebEx mobile application has been downloaded in over 230 countries and almost a million
      and a half times.

      • I’m sorry, the simple fact that you have a jabber client and a webex client, both which perform different functionality to different backend components only hits the tip of the iceberg of how broke your “unified” communications system is….

        • Hi Randy, thanks for your continued interest in Cisco.

          A compelling mobile experience requires the full set of collaboration features to be delivered to the mobile user in the manner that he or she is accustomed. Using the leading mobile operating systems as examples, the standard communications features – voice, SMS, contact list, email – are all separate apps with a dedicated purpose. Understanding this paradigm, we choose to deliver dedicated apps that are not only familiar to the user but that also work seamlessly together – launch a WebEx conference from a Jabber IM chat, start a Jabber IM chat from a contact in the Jabber phone directory, and so on – a unified mobile collaboration experience.

          It’s worth noting also that the Cisco WebEx App does far more than just dial your phone, you can also view the application or desktop that is being shared, you can manage the meeting and you can see and share video on some devices.

  6. Hello and thanks for this article. I found it an interesting read.

    I’m more familiar with Microsoft Lync so I watched the Jabber for Android video (here: the voice over the corporate wifi features look very good.

    From that same video it seems Jabber uses exactly the same Call Back method as Lync mobile to deliver voice when a user is on a mobile data network and not inside the corporate wifi network. Is that correct?

    I suppose this means video is not available on mobile data network as well?


    • Hi Matt – You actually have a couple of choices in how you use voice with the Jabber mobile clients.

      For an outbound call, when you click-to-call you will be prompted to call with your office number (which will be done via VoIP through Communications Manager) or with your mobile number (which will be done over the 3G/4G network using your mobile phone).

      For an inbound call, if someone calls your office number it will ring your Jabber client using VOIP through Communications Manager or someone can call your mobile number directly from the corporate directory.

      For me personally, when I am in the office I connect to the Wi-Fi network and use Jabber for iPhone for my IM and presence client and for my VoIP soft phone client. When I am out of the office after hours, I stay signed into the Jabber IM/P client but use single-number-reach to have Communications Manager ring my mobile number directly simply because I don’t get many voice calls after hours.

      Regarding video on the mobile data network, that tends to be constrained more by the network than the software. I don’t have 4G service where I live so my personal experience is limited. However, I have done some pretty good calls using video with WebEx meetings over a 4G Mi-Fi hotspot. Your mileage may vary here depending on your carrier’s network.

  7. Hi Michael – I guess you missed the Microsoft official Dec/12th press release where they announced that clients for iOS and Android have been submitted to their respective App Store and Market, please see following URL for it:

    Also if you remember Microsoft demonstrated iPhone Lync client during their Key Note session at EnterpriseConnect (formerly known as VoiceCon) earlier in Spring this year and I also remember Kirk Koenigsbauer saying during his keynote that (something words to effect) “Microsoft will be there where our users or customers are” before showcasing Lync iPhone client on stage.

    I am a bit surprised how limited and poor knowledge you exhibited about Microsoft UC, don’t you have access to Gartner Magic quadrant for UC for last few years?

    I have to agree with you that Microsoft and Cisco have vast differences in UC philosophy and strategy. Cisco does what they are best at: acquisitions and marketing.

    How can a UC stack be considered unified when it is made up completely independent backend infrastructure for each UC workload with each its own users’ DB, its own administration/management, its own dedicated HW infra – I can go on and on :). Here are few examples: CUCM for dialtone, CUPS for IM/Presence, I am not sure what should list for Conferencing MeetingPlace (that appears to have no future) or WebEx or WebEx Node, and what should put for Unified messaging and Email – I guess Microsoft Exchange & Outlook – right 🙂

    Sorry but you ticked me off.


    • Hi – Aamer, thanks for your reply.

      As you pointed out, for the past few years both Microsoft and Cisco have been recognized as leaders in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications and as you suggested,
      Microsoft has historically scored slightly higher.

      However, the point of my post was to describe where we at Cisco think the market for UC is going in the future, not what it has been in the past, and
      we think that future includes having a mobile UC experience that is as good as or better than a desktop experience.

      What struck me as surprising about the Lync announcement was not that Microsoft was creating clients for Apple and Google products but that the
      functionality available in these clients was so limited compared to what the Lync desktop client offered. At Cisco, I have been using the Jabber and
      WebEx mobile clients so extensively that my mobile client usage is probably higher than my desktop client usage, especially for meetings now that we
      have two-way high quality video on the iPad.

      So if I can get all of the desktop client functionality on a mobile client without having to sit in a desk chair, why wouldn’t I choose the mobile
      experience? I am able to work anytime, anywhere and any way that I want. And at this point, if someone told me that I had to give up my Jabber and
      WebEx mobile client experience to go back to an IM and presence only client, I not sure I would want to do it.

      Also, here is another point of view on how Microsoft is approaching the mobile user experience differently than the rest of the industry: