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Cisco's Chambers Wants to Come to Your House

Cisco CEO John Chambers has a plan for attacking the consumer marketplace, and it's one that he's not going to be quiet about anymore. At a Webcast press conference at the 2009 Consumer Electronics (CES) show in Las Vegas, Chambers outlined his vision for how Cisco's strategy for consumers is coming together.

It's a strategy that has been several years in the making and is highlighted with a number of product and service announcements that Cisco made today at CES.

Cisco's consumer focus is a key priority for Chambers in 2009 as he pilots his company through difficult macro-economic conditions in the global economy. Chambers noted that Cisco's entry into the consumer space is similar to how it enters any market: by first planting seeds, then working on strategy and finally focusing on execution.

The consumer marketplace does have one important difference for Cisco. "This is different as we already have 168 million devices out there," Chambers said. "Many people think of Cisco as just entering the consumer market but we've been there for a long time. We've just been fairly quiet about what we've been doing, but we're not going to be quiet anymore."

Cisco acquired consumer networking vendor Linksys in 2003 for $500 million, and acquired set-top box manufacturer Scientific Atlanta in 2005 for $6.9 billion. Chambers noted that the consumer business has been a huge movement that Cisco has been planning over the past five years with product, partner and acquisition announcements.

At CES, Cisco announced a new media hub device, a home networking protocol licensing program and the new EOS white-label Software-as-a-Service social networking platform. Chambers boasted that Cisco will be busy with many more consumer-oriented news in 2009 with what he referred to as a steady stream of announcements every two months or so.

The cornerstone of Cisco's consumer strategy is the same basic underlying strategy for Cisco's entire business. "At the base of all this is a next generation that is enabled by intelligence throughout the network – the network becoming the platform," Chambers said.

Chambers has been proclaiming his vision of the network as the platform since at least 2006.

At CES, he noted that he now sees the role of the consumer moving from simply having a few PCs networked in the home to enabling a connected home where multiple devices works with each other and any content can live on any device.

Cisco's move to help enable what Chambers referred to as "connected experiences" also extends to sports entertainment as well as the home. Cisco recently inked a deal to provide a full network experience for the new Yankee Stadium in New York.

Overall, Cisco connected moves may well be changing the perception of how Cisco itself is viewed. At least, that's what Chambers thinks.

"I've never had this type of opportunity in front of us in how CEOs view Cisco," Chambers said. "Not as a router and switch type of product or as a plumber - although we're proud to be one – but really as a business partner. It's done because it's not device centric. It's architecture centric with any type of device to any type of content."