PARIS – Now even Internet plumbing companies want to catch the wave of the home and social networking phenomena that have millions of people wiring their households and then using Web sites like MySpace and Friendster to share their lives.
Cisco, long known inside technology circles for the hardware that connects computers to one another on the Internet, wants to move beyond its usual clientele of big businesses and network providers and become a household name among consumers.
The company has a long row to hoe; it will be years before the ordinary consumer – let alone a teenager chatting on Friendster – thinks of the name Cisco in the same way as, say, Sony or Apple.
But Cisco has taken several small steps in that direction already, dropping the “Systems” from the end of its name and making a grab for publicity based on its prescience to trademark the name “iPhone.”
It has also snapped up some start-up companies that are far from its original mission, including Utah Street Networks, a software developer for online social networks, and Five Across, a collaboration software maker. And the company is investing billions of dollars in a video-conferencing business.
Recently, Cisco has taken its brand to the mass market in a European television advertising campaign, which is certainly a novel approach for an infrastructure company.
Chris Dedicoat, who heads Cisco’s operations in Europe, said it was already getting “respectable shelf space” in large electronics retailers like Dixons and Media Markt with its Linksys brand, whose products help technology-minded consumers create home networks linking their digital devices.
It is those devices – no longer just personal computers, but television set-top boxes, printers, phones, stereos and even refrigerators – that are the objects of Cisco’s affection.
“The appliance world is going to change so much; the average life span is getting shorter and shorter,” Dedicoat said. “We want to make sure we are seen as the company that can integrate the consumer’s choice of appliance.”
That means, Dedicoat said, being perceived as an “open” company, willing and able to be the link between things as disparate as a Hitachi television, an LG refrigerator, an Apple iPod and a Canon digital camera.
That is why Cisco is letting Apple use its iPhone trademark when the iPod maker comes out with a combination mobile phone and music player next month, Dedicoat said.
Cisco agreed to license the name in exchange for being able to make its products work with those of Apple, a company known for being “closed” to other systems.
“What we demonstrated in our talks on the iPhone is a commitment to collaboration,” Dedicoat maintained.
Dedicoat said he believed Cisco’s investment in consumer awareness was merely following the transition of the Internet into an everywhere-everyone channel for communications.
Social networking is just today’s rest stop on the way to micropersonalization of information and entertainment, and that means every consumer is a mass market of one.
The Internet has replaced knowledge-sharing in such a permanent and dramatic way, he said, that the next generation of invention and innovation will come from “the network,” not from individuals, whether it be in the fields of biology, information technology or rocket science.
At the same time that it is introducing itself to the average end-user, Cisco aims not to neglect its bread-and-butter business: Internet service providers and corporate customers.
“Businesses also need to reach consumers in new and different ways,” he said, “and we want to be seen as an enabler of that.”
As for becoming a name as well-known to the average home do-it-yourselfer as something like Krazy Glue, Dedicoat acknowledges there are limits.
“We know that it’s ambitious and that it’s a long-term goal,” he said.
Fuente: International Herald Tribune