Yesterday Cisco announced a corporate lay off of 1300 employees, representing about 2% of its workforce. This is in addition to last year’s removal of 10,000 jobs as part of a restructuring and cost savings program.
The official announcement contained no specifics as to locations or departments being affected. But an article by Julie Bort on BusinessInsider.com says “One source who is close to the company told us that Cisco let go 400 people from its Collaboration business unit, particularly sales people in its WebEx unit.”
You can chalk that up to normal corporate resizing decisions based on the ebb and flow of economic factors and company priorities. I worked in Silicon Valley long enough to see plenty of major hiring/firing cycles. It happens.
Moving on, I see that Cisco is expanding the WebEx brand name to encompass social networking, telepresence, video calling, mobile collaboration, and group calendaring. Hmmm… I seem to recall Microsoft playing with the same idea after they purchased Placeware and turned it into Live Meeting. The web conferencing/webinar applications that gave birth and leading market share to the product eventually became subsumed by the larger concepts of Unified Communications/Collaboration, business applications, and a suite of productivity enhancers. Eventually Placeware/Live Meeting quietly trickled away, replaced by Microsoft Lync, just another piece of Office 365 functionality.
The Cisco marketing alignment is taking the opposite branding approach. It looks like everything will end up falling under the WebEx label. But I can’t help wondering if this will lead to dilution of the WebEx brand as a solution for webinars, web training, and web conferencing.
Changing a product from a standalone solution to a generic platform concept means you don’t put the same emphasis on direct sales and promotion of the product for its previous focus. If Cisco is indeed following the (loosely defined) path that Microsoft took, we’ll see licensing for WebEx as a point solution for webinars get handed off almost exclusively to resellers. Feature upgrades and enhancements of the base product will slow down or stop while the development team concentrates on integration with other Cisco products. Use of WebEx will be promoted as a component functionality that is part of a larger enterprise solution suite. The final step is to cease all licensing and support of the standalone WebEx products, making it available in more limited functionality only as part of the enterprise platform.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. We’ll see.