Cisco banking on collaboration tools

Plans data, voice, video, and mobile integration

Triple plays are rare in baseball. But Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers plans to do one better Wednesday by promising to pull off a "quadruple play" in the networking business: incorporating data, voice, video, and mobile capabilities across its product lines.

Chambers, speaking at the company's annual analyst conference in New York City, said the unified communications strategy would be necessary to sustain Cisco's growth in the next decade and stave off competition from startups and pure-play vendors in those areas.

Saying "the network becomes the platform," Chambers predicted product integrations fueled by a business trend to move to more collaborative management models.

That change will make video collaboration tools more important, boosting network traffic and the need for new infrastructure downstream, he said. Cisco will also update earlier product lines with features that will allow service providers to have more quality control over applications, according to Mike Volpi, senior vice president of the company's routing and service provider technology group. The idea is that with more controls, providers can charge more for premium services, and generally upgrade application features. For example, the 12000 Series routers will add per-session control for business VOIP and video in this fiscal year, he said. The 7600 Series routers will gain per-session controls and subscriber-aggregation features, he said.

While attendees said they would like more specifics about upcoming products, several agreed that certain specifics about the business appear to position the company for further growth. Powell indicated that the company would offer a dividend to investors. This is one sign that the company is confident of its growth predictions, said Mark Sue, an analyst with brokerage RBC Capital Markets. "Of course we'd like to know when, but that is a positive sign," Sue said.