Cisco’s failure as a hosted email provider

by Bharat Suneja

Cisco entered the hosted email business thirteen months ago. Don’t blame yourself for not knowing about Cisco Mail — many experts were similarly unaware till earlier this week, when Cisco announced it’s quitting the business.

Debra Chrapaty, Vice President of Cisco’s Collaboration Software Group (formerly Corporate Vice President of Global Foundation Services at Microsoft), notes in a blog post:

The product has been well received, but we’ve since learned that customers have come to view their email as a mature and commoditized tool versus a long-term differentiated element of their collaboration strategy.

Microsoft has weighed in on the incident. In a blog post on the Unified Communications team blog, Microsoft’s Julia White writes:

If your email provider is approaching their application as a commoditized tool without any differentiation, then maybe you need to turn to a provider who understands that email is the core of business communications with the ability to significantly enhance productivity.

One would have to agree. Based on public information about Cisco Mail on the company’s web site, the company’s hosted email product comes across as uninspiring.

Comparatively, Microsoft treats email as a mission critical application it is. The company has been investing in email and collaboration for 15 years and offers a suite of products with rich functionality. Microsoft continues to extend its products to the cloud. With its BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) and the new Office 365 — a bundle of services which includes Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online, Lync Online, and Microsoft Office apps, Microsoft offers customers rich collaboration features they’ve come to expect from their on-premises deployments. More in Email: Not Just a Commodity on the Unified Communications blog.

Nevertheless, Cisco deserves accolades for taking the bold step of admitting failure and taking the difficult decision to quit the hosted email business — or as Chrapathy puts it, “to take appropriate risks to ensure that our collaboration architecture continues to position Cisco to lead”.

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