Cisco focuses on video, innovation teams

Developing countries and emerging technologies are the company's focus going forward

Cisco Systems Inc. executives looked to video, the developing world, and still-emerging technologies as they kicked off the company's C-Scape analyst conference Tuesday.

Many of the killer applications of the next few years will involve video, said President and Chief Executive Officer John Chambers, who demonstrated the Cisco Digital Media Player and Digital Media Manager, a system for easily publishing images, text and video to flat-panel displays via Ethernet. He also highlighted the company's recently unveiled Telepresence Meeting system and infrastructure for service providers to deliver video to TVs, PCs and handheld devices.

Chambers also sees a bright spot in developing countries, especially India, where Cisco last week opened a manufacturing facility and said it would set up a globalization center and invest in research and development. One high-level executive has already moved his family to India and ten more will go in the next six months, he said. India is a country that knows how to partner, and Cisco hopes to work with government, service providers and enterprises there as well as seeking partnerships in China and other emerging countries, Chambers said.

Cisco can still innovate, said Chief Development Officer Charles Giancarlo, taking the stage after Chambers. It is diving into areas that had been considered boring and unchanging, such as enterprise phone systems, and transforming them through IP (Internet Protocol) technology, Giancarlo said.

Video surveillance is another of those markets. Combining many types of video that have been on specific networks and putting them over IP creates many new possibilities, he said. "We may actually get to be known as a video company."

Trying to get a head start on new technologies, Cisco is now forming internal entrepreneurial teams to capture the innovation potential within the company. The teams, which include sales, marketing and manufacturing personnel as well as experts in research and development, are meant to harness innovation within the massive networking company that has gotten many of its technologies by buying startups, Giancarlo said. These teams are going out ahead of what Cisco calls its Advanced Technologies, existing categories such as storage networking and security.

Looking farther out, Cisco sees itself at the core of fully virtual computing systems. Network switches are becoming faster than the interfaces inside computers, so virtualized processing, storage and other components can all be spread out and linked together on the fly through the network in the next 10 years, Giancarlo said.

That vision is probably accurate, but in trying to form the core of those systems, Cisco faces a new challenge, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research Inc. It will be going head-to-head against giants such as Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp., a much tougher lot than its current networking rivals, most of which have been mismanaged, he said. The problem will be multiplied as Cisco expands into many more technology areas, Kerravala added.

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