Recognizing the market opportunity for collaboration technologies in midmarket companies, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) has launched a new collaboration specialization and extended its enterprise communications platform to reach downstream.

The midmarket space--which Cisco defines as 100 to 1,000 employees--is comprised of about 4 million businesses and remains a virtually untapped market for Cisco in collaboration technologies, noted Richard McLeod, senior director of Worldwide Channel Collaboration Sales at Cisco Systems. “It’s an area where Cisco is market-led around partners, and we are investing hugely in our partner go-to-market to attack this space. We want to establish our leadership in collaboration in this space as we do in the enterprise space.”

As part of its midmarket collaboration push, Cisco has launched the Cisco Collaboration Express Specialization, which McLeod said lowers the bar of requirements for partners interested in adding collaboration to their stable of expertise. The new specialization represents a new entry point into offering Cisco collaboration technologies, and costs about 50 percent less in training and other requirements.

In the same vein, Cisco has refreshed its TelePresence (TP) for Midmarket Advanced Technology Program (ATP) to entice video-only VARs to expand their portfolio to include collaboration, McLeod said.

“We want to give them a choice of moving up in video space or taking a step into collaboration space,” he said.
As part of the enhancements, Cisco has reduced its TP VIP bookings threshold by 50 percent and increased payouts on TP AV-centric products. In addition, Cisco reduced the demo requirements at each level and streamlined the roles and training hours required for participation in the TP ATP.

The technology linchpin of the midmarket collaboration push is the Business Edition 6000 (BE6K), an enterprise-grade communications platform for video and call control. The BE6K supports up to 1,000 users and 50 sites in one server application, and now includes unified communications, instant messaging through Cisco Jabber and web conferencing through WebEx, as well as collaboration, telepresence and individual-and group-paging capabilities.

“It’s simplified in its deployment, provisioning and administration for midmarket VARs to play in this space,” McLeod said.

And finally, Cisco has  sweetened the midmarket collaboration pot with a slew of promos and marketing offerings designed to jump start partners’ entry into the space.

“We are going big in the midmarket,” McLeod said. “Cisco expects to own our unfair share of the market space.”
Cisco isn’t the only one playing up the collaboration opportunity in the midmarket, as other vendors including Polycom (NASDAQ: PLCM) and Avaya have set the space in their sites. It will be interesting to see just how well collaboration technologies play in the midmarket--and who will be crowned king of the midmarket collaboration mountain.