Analyst Gartner has warned Cisco that its exit from the email market could weaken its competitive position in the collaboration arena.
Cisco launched a hosted email offering in November 2009. Leading Microsoft executive Debra Chrapaty was hired as general manager of the networking giant's Collaboration Software Group to lead its charge into the email realm.
But, in a blog post yesterday, Chrapaty revealed the vendor is pulling the plug on Cisco Mail, after 13 months of testing and a controlled release programme.
"The product has been well received, but we've since learned that customers have come to view their email as a mature and commoditised tool versus a long-term differentiated element of their collaboration strategy," she wrote. "We've also heard that customers are eager to embrace emerging collaboration tools such as social software and video."
Chrapaty stressed that Cisco will still integrate other vendors' email offerings and will help current trial customers move to other providers. Employees working on Cisco Mail will be moved to jobs on other collaboration projects.
"It should go without saying that Cisco remains very committed to the collaboration technology market opportunity overall," added Chrapaty. "We will continue to listen to our customers and we will take appropriate risks to ensure that our collaboration architecture continues to position Cisco to lead in this $38bn market."
It is understood Cisco invested some $250m (£154m) in the Cisco Mail project, with 125 staff assigned to the development team. The technology was reportedly rolled out to 3,000 users across 30 different customers.
Matt Cain, Gartner research vice president, claimed competing with Microsoft and Google had proved too difficult and expensive a task.
"The odds of Cisco succeeding in the email market were always steep," he said. "With the sole exception of Google, there has not been a successful new player in the enterprise email market for close to two decades."
Cain claimed that Cisco is banking on the fact that "email has reached its apex in popularity". But he cautioned that the lack of an email offering could harm Cisco's chances of providing end users with other collaboration tools.
"The conventional buying pattern has been that the incumbent email supplier is in the best position to supply adjacent collaboration services," he explained.
Cain concluded that exiting the email space would boost Cisco's wider collaboration efforts by allowing it to redeploy staff and capital to the development of emerging technologies. But he added that the end of Cisco Mail "weakens [Cisco's] overall collaboration effort in two critical ways".
"It puts a cloud over its other nascent initiatives such as Quad, Show and Share and Pulse," said Cain. "If Cisco is pulling the plug on such an extensive effort, what reassurances do potential customers have that the same fate does not await other products?
"[And] it takes away the ability for customers to use Cisco as a single stack collaboration vendor. Organisations generally want fewer vendors, and it is appealing to many organisations to have a sole supplier of all unified communication and collaboration services."
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