LOS ANGELES: Cisco has unveiled a tool called Project Squared that mimics the features seen in services like WhatsApp but is aimed at businesses wanting to let staff collaborate on social messaging apps but with enterprise controls.
The Project Squared app allows staff to create 'meeting rooms' where users can share messages, images and documents, as well as begin video calls using a smartphone camera.
Staff are required to enter a code sent to their registered email, and any mix of people with different email addresses can create meeting rooms.
Cisco said that it will add more enterprise-level functionality to the tool, such as allowing only people with relevant company email accounts to create or join a meeting room.
The tool also allows staff to share content from other platforms. This is limited to Box at present, but Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive are likely to be added in time.
Cisco explained that enterprise-grade control allows firms to strike a balance between the benefits of instant messaging apps and the security of information and documents being shared.
The release is designed to give workers the chance to test it and provide feedback to help Cisco refine the functionality.
The launch ties in with the convergence of social and mobile in collaboration, which Cisco touted at its Collaboration 2014 event as the key trends driving this area of its business.
Jonathan Rosenberg, chief technology officer for collaboration at Cisco, said that Project Squared is not a replacement for the company's WebEx service or a rival to tools like Yammer, but instead addresses a new market need.
"Project Squared is about making people more productive, about giving them tools to quickly share content and ideas, rather than as a place to just host content or conferences," he said at the event.
Alex Hadden-Boyd, senior director for Project Squared business operations, told V3 that the project has been in development for about a year with 120 Cisco staff.
Cisco has taken a different approach with the app, according to Hadden-Boyd, working with fewer controls and boundaries to allow the tool to develop more organically.
The company's internal IT team also relaxed its restriction on in-house testing of Cisco's own products to allow 40,000 staff to test the software. It can now be downloaded by anyone to test.
The development of the tool underlines the growing shift to offer enterprise-grade services with consumer-like functionality. Facebook is rumoured to be working on a dedicated business version of its platform.
V3 reported earlier this year on a new tool called PQChat that mimics WhatsApp and SnapChat functions, but is aimed at companies requiring extreme security and privacy.
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