Cisco Gets Social
Cisco today announced plans to acquire Five Across Inc., an 11-person company that builds social-networking Websites.
Cisco is quick to say it's not starting its own version of MySpace . Rather, it's interested in the tools to offer social networking sites to enterprise customers.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Five Across will go into Cisco's Media Solutions Group, which was created in December. Cisco is keeping hush-hush about the group and what else is in it, saying only that its aim is to provide "infrastructure" for the delivery of content.
Along those lines, Cisco thinks social networking has the potential to move into the corporate sphere. The transition would mirror the way cellphone features and instant messaging have become a part of corporate life. Social networking could be used internally, or it could be a way for a company to get feedback from customers.
IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) sees similar potential. Late in January, Big Blue announced Lotus Connections, a bundle of software offerings that bring social networking functions to the enterprise.
But the Media Solutions Group undoubtedly will tie to Cisco's consumer ambitions, too. Cisco wants a more consumer-friendly image, which is why it's turning to venues like Major League Baseball, where a new Oakland Athletics ballpark could double as a Cisco showcase. (See Cisco's Consumer Branding Crisis and Two Strikes on Cisco.)
As for Five Across, it's not just a bunch of college kids that Cisco met at Starbucks. The startup was founded in 2003, hoping to provide instant messaging software for enterprises.
Five Across's marquee project is NHL Connect, sort of a MySpace for hockey fans, launched by the National Hockey League last year.
Founded by Glenn Reid (who left last year), Five Across raised a $2 million round from Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) and Granite Ventures LLC .
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading