Cisco could be turning into the General Motors of Silicon Valley at the rate things are going, and despite my love for Detroit-based automakers, I don’t mean that in a good way. A few weeks after Cisco announced that it was killing the Flip line of cameras, rumors surfaced earlier this week that claimed the networking titan is thinking about selling off both the Linksys line of consumer networking products and the WebEx web conferencing business. Both of those were relatively recent acquisitions for Cisco, and are responsible for a significant share of its status in the public eye.
Although these moves might help Cisco refocus on the needs of its enterprise and carrier customers, I’m not so sure that they’re a bright idea. You see, without WebEx, the only people in business who care about Cisco are hard-core networking types; without Linksys, the only consumers who care about Cisco are – with Flip out of the picture – well, nobody.
Even hard-core network gurus understand that it’s not always worth their while to rely on Cisco for their technology. In a world where Netgear – which is mostly known for its consumer-grade hardware and unmanaged switches for small businesses – offers a 48-port managed 10-Gigabit Ethernet switch, what’s the point of paying a premium for the Cisco brand? One also can consider enterprise-class hardware from outfits like Juniper and Riverbed, which have a strong following in the enterprise networking community thanks in no small part to their dedication to the needs of the customer; in contrast, Cisco will dictate what you need, and charge you top dollar for the hardware as well as the service contract, the latter being the customer’s only means of accessing software fixes and security patches.
If it sounds like I’m frustrated after over a decade of dealing with the company, that’s because I am. There are days when I wouldn’t mind seeing the entire company flushed down the Guadalupe River and into San Francisco Bay. CEO John Chambers may think he’s doing the right thing for Cisco by focusing on its enterprise networking business, but he may have another think coming to him, if he acts too rashly to improve the floundering fortunes of his company.