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Cisco down to business with gear for digital home

Enterprise networking giant announces home audio and storage products at CES

January 7, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - LAS VEGAS -- Cisco Systems Inc. pushed further into living rooms today with new audio devices and network-attached storage products for the digital home, as well as a hosted software platform, Cisco Eos, aimed at helping media and entertainment companies create and manage online fan communities.

CEO John Chambers said at the International CES here that he wanted the public to understand Cisco's commitment to consumer products generally. "We are really committed to this consumer market, and we're putting the power of the whole company behind it," Chambers said.

Cisco has been active in building and marketing consumer products, including Linksys Wi-Fi routers, for five years, but Chambers pointed to today's announcements as examples of products that will move Cisco's consumer products revenue from $1 billion a year to his goal of $10 billion.

Chambers also said the company will begin more active branding and marketing of its consumer products, using the Cisco brand name, over the next year. He added that the company is working to build handheld wireless devices for consumers, using internal development teams and partnering with other companies.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research Inc. in Boston, said the consumer direction for Cisco, the leader in networking products used by businesses and service providers, is still an uphill battle.

Consumer products are still "the next frontier for Cisco ... [which] has very little name recognition with consumers," Kerravala told Computerworld.

"Most of the things Cisco sells to consumers today, consumers use but never see," Kerravala said. "They make Linksys routers and TV set-top boxes, so the overall awareness by consumers is low. Consumers say, 'That's the company that makes that Internet stuff.'"

However, Kerravala said Cisco could succeed in the consumer market with the "long hard work of delivering consistent products."

Cisco Eos: A platform is born

Warner Music Group was named by Cisco as the first entertainment company to use the Eos platform for sites from artists Laura Izibor and Sean Paul.

The platform includes analytics and site management tools, Cisco officials said. Eos relies on drawing consumers to recording artists and others at their own branded sites, where they can meet other fans through links to YouTube, Facebook and other social networking services.

Dan Scheinman, general manager of media solutions at Cisco, said the tools can be used to help companies build social networking connections in a fraction of the normal time required. Eos is a software and a service that allows media companies to focus on their end users rather than building and maintaining their own Web platforms, he said.

Cisco plans to integrate Eos with more of its products in the future to extend online entertainment to multiple screens, including TV and mobile devices, the company said.

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