Cisco gets into the social network business with Quad

Does the world really need another business social network? Apparently Cisco thinks so, because it plans to release one later this year. The company has been revealing more details of the new product, called Quad, in advance of a demonstration Tuesday at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

As described by Murali Sitaram, vice president and general manager of the company’s enterprise collaboration platform group, Quad takes advantage of Cisco’s existing strength in voice and video communication. He said it seems like a “natural transition or next step to get into the new collaboration world with content, documents, communication, and social coming together on this platform.”

Quad will be the first social network combining “asynchronous” communication, like status updates and microblogging, with more direct, immediate communication through tools like live video, Sitaram said. For example, if you find someone available in the network with knowledge that’s useful for your project, you can start a video chat or a web conference with them right away, rather than sending a message and waiting for a response. (For similar reasons, collaboration startup PBworks recently added voice capabilities.)

Other features include the ability to create personalized home pages, search all the content in your company, and integrate with other document systems like Microsoft SharePoint and Documentem. Quad will also include Cisco Show and Share, a video editing and sharing program that the company announced last year. And users will be able to access Quad when they’re away from their desk through downloadable applications for iPad and iPhone.

Cisco isn’t sharing pricing details yet, but Sitaram said Quad will be available this fall. It already offers tools for building customer social networks through a service called Cisco Eos.

The company is also announcing a couple of other business products. One of its recent hits has been its easy-to-use Flip video camera, which Cisco’s Prosumer General Manager Paul Fulton said has been embraced by companies as well as consumers. To serve those business users, Cisco has created a new service called FocalPoint, where companies can store all the video footage taken by their Flip cameras and other devices. Another new product, the latest version of WebEx Connect IM, a chat application using technology acquired from Jabber, is now accessible in Web browsers and doesn’t require a download. Cisco is also releasing a library of related code that allows customers to add presence and chat capabilities to their own applications.

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