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Monday, 05 March 2007 06:58

Cisco buying Tribe.net makes perfect sense

Reports that Cisco plans to buy Tribe.net a pioneer social networking site now overshadowed by the likes of MySpace and YouTube have been greeted with incredulity, but in the context of Cisco's recent video initiatives it makes a lot of sense.

The New York Times writer who broke the story  that Cisco is about to acquire social networking site Tribe.net described it as one of Cisco's most unusual deals and as "a curious pairing".

However in the context of recent Cisco initiative, it is entirely logical. Last September Cisco launched a system for the management and delivery of digital video and audio designed to make it very easy for an enterprise to upload video content, in real time and for employees or customers to search and view that content.

I feel rather pleased now that I headed that story  "Cisco launches 'YouTube for the enterprise" and I wrote "Cisco acknowledged that, while its offering at present is a technology not a service, it had the potential to be developed into a system that could enable members of the public to upload and access video in the same way as YouTube. It would even be possible for Cisco itself to offer a service based on the technology, putting in head on competition with the enormously successful YouTube. Cisco is already using the technology to deliver internal and external video content."

The NYT's author, seemingly unaware of this Cisco initiative,  commented "along with the recent purchase of a social network design firm, Five Across, the deal will give Cisco the technology to help large corporate clients create services resembling MySpace or YouTube to bring their customers together online."

OK so at the very least the acquisition of Tribe.net could enhance an existing Cisco product. This product is very new, and a radical departure from anything Cisco has done in the past, so there will be plenty of scope for enhancement.

There has been speculation, dismissed, that Cisco could try and use Tribe.net to become a player in the social networking game. Perhaps that is unlikely. But Cisco is a company that has singled out specific areas in which it intends to be a multi billion player in a few years time. Social networking is big and will get bigger. It would make a lot of sense for Cisco to pump some money in to Tribe.net to revive its fortunes and exploit the synergies which can flow from it being both a supplier of collaboration technology and the operator, through tribe of a social networking site.

By doing so, it would be well ahead of its competitors. There are several large and very successful social networking web site, but I can't think of any major technology suppliers that make any claim to specialise in this area.

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