Cisco Systems President and CEO John Chambers apparently was speaking ahead of himself last week when he told journalists and analysts at a press briefing in Anaheim that Linksys—well-known for making Wi-Fi hardware for home offices and small businesses—would eventually be folded into the overall Cisco brand.
Chambers clear implication was that the familiar and trusted Linksys brand would simply fade away over the new several months as product stock sold down.
Chambers was quoted in a video produced by UberPulse.com and reproduced on YouTube, saying: “I would have never entered the consumer market if I had thought it [Linksys] was a stand-alone or a network in itself. We believe the devices you use at home will go into the business market as well.
“It goes back to: Any device at any time, off any combination of networks, is our strategy … It will all come, over time, into a Cisco brand. The reason we kept the Linksys brand was because it was better known in the U.S. than even Cisco was for the consumer. As you go globally, there is very little advantage in that.”
However, Irvine, Calif.-based Linksys, a division of San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco and a unit that ultimately must take its orders from Chambers and the Cisco board of directors, didnt sound like it wanted to part with the name anytime soon when queried by eWEEK.
Media relations officer Karen Sohl on July 30 released the following statement from Linksys and Charles Giancarlo, president of Cisco/Linksys:
“Linksys consumer and SMB products will continue to be marketed under the Linksys brand and co-exist in the market with Cisco-branded connected home products over the near term. We will continue to examine our branding strategy going forward (as we have to date) and make changes if and when these changes add value to our customers decision-making processes and our channel partners.”
“If you watch the video, John never says that the Linksys brand is going away or that were killing it,” Sohl told eWEEK. “What John was saying is that Cisco is moving to a single Cisco branding strategy. Thats a plan that has always been in place, ever since Cisco acquired Linksys.
“Ciscos brand is extremely strong, as we know. The Linksys division is here in Irvine, were going to continue to exist as the Linksys division, and we will continue to sell home networking products with the Linksys brand on them.”
Cisco and Linksys products are going to continue to co-exist over time, Sohl said.
“And if we find that over time, that its smart to move to a different brand, we will do that,” Sohl said. “Were not going to have any yes or no answers right now, because at this time, Linksys has existed very well selling into the consumer market and low end of the small business market. Were a company with over $1 billion in revenue and were going to continue our margins and marketing and the infrastructure we have in place to sell these solutions.”
Linksys Brand Endures
Linksys will be coming out later this year with new products, and they will be Linksys-branded, Sohl said.
“Were not looking at making any changes as of right now. We have a whole slew of products to announce, we just had our big Connected Office Day about two months ago; we have a lot of products lined up for the holiday season, which will all be coming into the market with Linksys on them,” Sohl said.
Linksys sells products in about 80 countries, and about 30 percent of its revenues come from international customers, Sohl said.
“It is true what John [Chambers] said, that the Linksys name isnt as strong overseas as it is in the United States,” Sohl said. “So we have some work to do.”
Ironically, Linksys announced earlier this month that it wanted to improve its brand visibility and make its products more available in India and the Far East.
Sanjeev Gupta, Asia Pacific sales director for the division, said that “we are working closely with our two distributors — Ingram Micro and Redington — and efforts are under way to understand and meet the regional demand.”
Cisco acquired Linksys Inc. in March 2003 for about $500 million, becoming Ciscos first strategic acquisition in consumer and home networking.
Media relations reps at Frys, Best Buy and Circuit City all declined comment to eWEEK, saying that they do not offer public statements on companies branding practices.
However, customers at the Frys retail warehouse store in Palo Alto, Calif., told eWEEK that, yes, branding does make a big difference when it comes to making a purchasing decision.
“I have bought two LAN setups — both from Linksys — for my home over the last four years, upgrading from 802.11B to 802.11G, and Im very happy with the performance,” said Brandon Bergstrom of Mountain View, Calif. “When I go back to upgrade next time, Ill look for Linksys equipment, because my experience with Linksys has been good.
“Even though I know in the back of my mind that Cisco and Linksys are one and the same, it might still affect my buying decision.”
Fellow Frys shopper Howard Ahearn, Sunnyvale, Calif. offered a succinct comment: “Why should I go looking for a Cisco home router? Cisco doesnt know anything about home routers.”