Returning to temperate climes after my first “summer” visit to Las Vegas, I am more amazed than ever at Nevada residents’ ability to withstand daily temperatures of 40 degrees plus and practically zero humidity. At least I now know what 108 Fahrenheit feels like. The contrast between this and a proper British summer (a few days of 25C followed by cool cloud and rain) could not be more stark.
Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay was the venue for Cisco’s annual customer gathering, which this year also brought together a hundred or so analysts for in-depth discussion of product and commercial strategy. The highlight product announcement was the Cius, as reported
by my colleague, Susan Welsh de Grimaldo. While the company has not officially announced pricing, I expect it to be closer to $1000 than $500. Cisco is quite clear that the Cius is positioned as an enterprise solution, and these prices are likely to prevent much leakage towards “unofficial” consumer markets.
What was most interesting, perhaps, is the genesis of the Cius within the Cisco organisation. It was obvious from many conversations that few people were aware of its development until very shortly before its unveiling. Even John Chambers himself claims to have been unaware of it until two months ago. If the product proves successful it will be further justification of Cisco’s innovation in organisation and management which allows dynamic cross-fertilisation of ideas across multiple teams.
The other news centered on home energy management, where Cisco is launching a “Home Energy Controller” allied to Cisco Energy Management Services, which will be offered by utility companies to help consumers understand and control their energy consumption. The Controller uses Zigbee, WiFi and other home networking technologies to exchange data with and, potentially, control a variety of home devices.
Much of our discussion with Cisco execs centered on the challenges and opportunities for service providers offered by OTT video, as well as the potential for telepresence in the home environment. Telepresence has a been a success for Cisco in the corporate market, and it is still on track to bring a consumer solution to the market by the end of 2010.
It still strikes many people, both in the industry and consumers, as odd that Cisco should have a serious consumer strategy. While its brand presence is growing, not many would consider it as a competitor to the Sonys, Samsungs and Apples of the world. And there is no doubt that the company’s financial power is built on its core network switching and routing market dominance.
Cisco does have key positions in home networking and set-top boxes, as well as the TV and broadband service provider space, but the jury is still out on whether Cisco itself will become an overall leader in consumer markets over the next decade. But consumer players cannot ignore Cisco as an influence on market direction. Its innovation processes, as demonstrated by Cius, will combine with its financial strength to create a wave of consumer innovations over the coming years. Many may fail, but it will only take a few to be successful for rivals to feel the heat.
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