The Cisco Systems (CSCO) Jabber vs. Microsoft (MSFT) Skype video conferencing war has pushed beyond product features and functions, and now includes a new word: Monopoly. Indeed, Cisco is pushing a European court to overturn Microsoft's 2011 buyout of Skype. Why does the networking giant care so deeply about free video conferencing, phone and instant messaging software? Just look at some of CIsco's least successful business moves in the past decade and you'll get the answer.
Indeed, Cisco's video setbacks stretch from hardware to software. They include:
- Cisco killing its Umi home telepresence and video conferencing products in January 2012. Cisco tried to sell expensive Umi hardware and monthly Umi subscription services to consumers -- only to discover that most consumers considered Skype "good enough" for most in-home video conferencing needs.
- Cisco killing Cius, an Android tablet, in May 2012. Cius's death was an indirect setback for Jabber, a collaboration and unified communications client designed for mobile and desktop devices. In theory, Cius and Jabber could have been a killer combo -- like iPods and iTunes. But Cisco couldn't find any buyers for the Cius tablet.
- Cisco killing the Flip video camera in April 2011. Flip's hardware was great (actually, awesome) but the bundled software was lousy. At the time, the weak Flip software reinforced that Cisco was not really mastering the consumerization of IT.
Fast forward to the current Cisco Jabber vs. Microsoft Skype battle. Toss in the fact that Microsoft may blur (or eventually eliminate) the line between Skype and Lync -- the business-oriented unified communications platform.
That reality has Cisco concerned -- even as Jabber itself continues to improve with a Jabber mobile software developer kit (SDK). And keep an eye on Cisco partners like Damaka, which seem to be innovating around Jabber.
But don't forget to keep a close eye on Cisco's legal maneuvers. According to Reuters, Cisco Lawyer Luis Ortiz Bianco told Europe's second-highest court that the Microsoft-Skype deal "created an effective monopoly and condemned competitors to a niche."
Is Cisco essentially conceding that Jabber itself has been condemned to a niche? Hmmm...