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Cisco Pushes Into Social Networking

SAN JOSE, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) is planning a major push into corporate social networks with its new Quad technology, which it claims will overcome the limitations of email.

"It brings together all the things that you do in social networking in the consumer world, with stuff that we think is important for the enterprise, like security," Murali Sitaram, vice president of Cisco's Enterprise Collaboration Platform Group, told TheStreet. "It's like a campus quad -- over time, you will find that usage patterns will move from email to things like Cisco Quad."

A bold claim, but Cisco clearly thinks it is onto something. Many consumers, for example, rely heavily on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter for communication, particularly compared to older Webmail technologies such as Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) Hotmail.

Essentially a hybrid of social networking and security technology such as virtual private networks (VPNs), Quad borrows heavily from the consumer world.

The Web-based solution provides a Facebook-style activity feed and also lets users send secure instant messages and embedded videos around select groups of employees. The product is designed to work on mobile devices and desktops and Cisco's forthcoming Cius business tablet.

Email has also reached a critical point in the business world, according to Sitaram. "We feel that email is a very strong tool, but it has probably outlived its utility," he said. "Email is not going to disappear [but] it has sort of reached a plateau in terms of what it can give organizations."

The Cisco executive explained that while email works well for short messages between individuals, the technology is less effective for "many to many" communication. Multiple copies of the same email, for example, will often swirl inefficiently around an organization, placing an additional burden on companies' storage systems and providing a headache when data needs to be accessed for compliance or legal purposes.

Cisco's strategy is to bring communications together within the Quad platform and push the technology onto corporate users, a realm where email is still king and where convincing CIOs to rethink their communication infrastructure could be a dautning task.

Undeterred, Sitaram points to the large numbers of Gen X and Gen Y people entering the workplace. "Over the next three to five years, there will be a big transformation," he said, adding that these workers are much more used to social networking tools.
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