Cisco takes a jab at Microsoft with new Skype alternatives

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Cisco sees enterprise collaboration as a $45 billion market and it is going after it with a vengeance.

It announced a trio of new products today that shows how it’s on a headlong collision course with Microsoft’s collaboration products, Lync and Skype.

Next quarter, Cisco will bring Jabber to Windows and the iPad for the first time.

Jabber is a competitor to Lync. It’s not for consumers but is deployed to enterprise employees to let them communicate via video, voice, presence, instant messaging, or web conferencing. Jabber was previously available for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android, including Cisco’s own Android tablet, the Cius.

Last summer Cisco bought Versly, a startup that made a plug-in for Microsoft Office applications, and the new Jabber Windows software is the fruit of that. With Versly, Cisco thinks that its collaboration tool can compete with Lync even for Microsoft Office users.

Cisco used this announcement to point out that its products support a video standard, so they work with products from rival Polycom. Cisco says that Skype does such a poor job of supporting the H.264 video standard that its products can’t work with Skype.

That’s a little skewed, though. Skype has been supporting H.264 on the iPhone for about a year now. So technically, Skype on the iPhone should work with Cisco’s videoconferencing wares.

The bigger issue here is that Microsoft has little incentive to work directly with Cisco to see that Skype works with Cisco’s wares. Microsoft and Cisco are competing head to head for the enterprise.

If Microsoft ever gets its act together and integrates Lync with Skype — as it has been promising — the advantage lies with Microsoft. Lync will be able to reach all those Skype consumers — and Cisco will not.

Cisco also announced an update to the TX9000 family, a high-end, three-screen video conferencing unit that costs $299,000 a pop. The TX9000 family also works with Jabber and Cisco’s other collaboration tools, Webex (its cloud web conferencing service) and Quad (its microblogging/address book tool).

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