Cisco sees Web 2.0 boom after posting strong Q4

Cisco predicts emerging technologies that allow collaboration will accelerate the company's revenue growth

Cisco Systems expects Web 2.0 to drive a growth curve similar to the Internet expansion of the 1990s, accelerating the company's revenue growth, chairman and CEO John Chambers said Tuesday as Cisco announced strong fourth-quarter numbers.

Emerging technologies that allow collaboration, especially video, make this time like the early 1990s in terms of the networking company's prospects for growth, Chambers said on a conference call following the earnings report. Cisco raised its forecast for average revenue growth each quarter to between 12 and 17 percent. Cisco's standard prediction over the past three years had been for between 10 and 15 percent year-over-year growth in each quarter.

The brighter outlook flew in the face of recent stock market gyrations and worries over the U.S. economy. But Cisco sees Web 2.0 driving demand for both network capacity, which its equipment provides, and tools such as hosted applications, which it is starting to sell.

The news was already good from Cisco's fiscal fourth quarter, which ended July 28. The company's revenue rose 18 percent from a year earlier to $9.4 billion while its earnings per share grew 24 percent to 31 cents. Net income was $1.9 billion. Cisco forecast revenue between $9.45 billion and $9.55 billion for the current quarter.

Not counting certain special items, Cisco earned 36 cents per share, 1 cent above the consensus forecast from analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

The growth was balanced across customer segments, product groups, and regions of the world, Chambers said. However, the company's advanced technologies, including security, storage, and unified communications, outshone traditional routing and switching revenue with a 24 percent increase. And emerging markets led Cisco's growth rate in orders, with the Middle East and Africa together showing a 50 percent increase from a year earlier. Overall order growth in the U.S. was in the upper teens, led by service-provider investments, and enterprise network buying rebounded in the quarter, Cisco said.

Web 2.0 technologies, such as the Web conferencing service Cisco acquired with its purchase of WebEx earlier this year, are the second wave of the Internet and could drive growth at Cisco for a decade, Chambers said.

"This truly is the top of the first inning of a nine-inning game," Chambers said.

Telepresence, the big-screen, high-definition videoconferencing system Cisco started selling last year, is the most striking of the technologies now and will eventually find its way from executive suites to homes, Chambers said. Cisco has about 50 customers for its telepresence systems today, but Chambers said response is like nothing he's seen before in his career.

"This is the first time I've seen this type of excitement," Chambers said.

Also on the conference call, Chambers announced that Frank Calderoni will replace Dennis Powell as Cisco's chief financial officer next year. Calderoni is currently Cisco's senior vice president of customer solutions finance. He came to Cisco in 2004 from datacenter networking vendor QLogic and previously was CFO of SanDisk.

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