Chambers: If It’s Obvious, It’s Too Late

SAN FRANCISCO — John Chambers is a globe-trotting CEO with a relentless schedule.

Good thing the Cisco head honcho can tele-presence his way into some of those meetings crowding his schedule, using “quad play” messaging with unified voice, video on demand, collaboration and mobility.

Plus, it’s good business to actually live out the mantra he repeats when he appears at conferences such as the Oracle Open World gathering here, which goes like this: The network will become the platform.

This time, Chambers went beyond the discussion of how the network will optimize applications, growth and productivity and reached out to the audience with a challenge.

“If we [as an industry] don’t always think about change, we’ll get left behind,” he said, while strolling into the audience of conference attendees, talk-show host style. Sure, he continued, IT has become hot again. It’s bringing sizzle back into the marketplace.

But can you position your company and business ahead of the next wave of trends peeking over IT’s horizon? If you’re not thinking about collaboration trends, then you’re in danger of missing out, he said. If you’re not working on building network-enabled applications, or talking about the next wave of applications, which will be driven by collaboration, then you’re missing out.

The same was true for the budding start of Voice over IP back in 1997, he said. “I wish I hadn’t said that voice will be free back then because that really upset AT&T,” Chambers said.

But nine years later, VoIP deployments are introducing, at the very least, the era of almost-free calling, (provided you are happy to put up with lousy voice quality on Internet phone calls).

Chambers’ advice: Catch those transitions three to five years before they are obvious. The same is true for the collaboration trend taking hold of the industry. “Because by the time it’s obvious, it’s too late.”

Quad play isn’t quite obvious yet, but it’s moving along faster than you’d expect. By that, he means, an ability to collaborate with VoIP, video on demand, collaboration and mobility in a way that blows video conference out the door.

And it’s happening faster than you’d think.

“There will be a brutal consolidation in our industry” as quad play kicks in,” said Chambers. “We’re already seeing it in the telecommunications industry, and mergers of networking giants such as Lucent and Alcatel.

“Collaboration, unified communications, tele-presence, virtual meetings – the ability to meet each other [from across long distances] in the same room. These have huge implications, and not just for travel,” he said.

“Collaboration will be the next frontier. It will be the power of the human network in ways that we’re just beginning to understand. There are huge implications for revenue streams.”

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