Cisco plays up video for business, carriers

Cisco is targeting video, virtualization and collaboration as key areas of growth while pursuing 21 other initiatives at the same time, Chairman and CEO John Chambers told financial analysts on Tuesday.

In a presentation at Cisco's annual financial analyst conference that doubled as a sales pitch on the company's growth potential and its products, Chambers said video is changing work and life while also driving sales of Cisco's infrastructure. Virtualization, a newer theme for the company, also represents a big opportunity because the network is the element that touches every computing and storage resource in an enterprise, he said.

"Virtualization is about routing," Chambers said, going back to the company's traditional core competency. Bringing together data, applications and processing power from many locations requires the same kind of expertise Cisco has traditionally used to translate among different kinds of networks, Chambers said. Data and other resources might reside in enterprise data centers, carrier networks or even home set-top boxes, he said.

But video was front and center at the conference. Cisco introduced MediaNet, a network platform designed to carry high-quality video and other rich media to and from multiple systems, including TVs, PCs and mobile devices. MediaNet will start rolling out over the next few months and will include new hardware platforms as well as software upgrades to existing systems, said Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group.

As part of the vision of MediaNet, Cisco sees video being reformatted for a variety of clients within the network and giving users an easy way to find and redistribute clips. Chambers demonstrated a search for clips within Cisco's network based on his name and the word "green." Two such clips were then edited together and sent to an associate's PC, reformatted from large-screen video format to an appropriate form.

MediaNet is key to Cisco's plans for helping carriers build out profitable new services, Chambers said. In the long term, Cisco can help carriers such as AT&T earn a return on investments in infrastructure because it can understand the subscribers better than the carriers themselves, he said. MediaNet, including Cisco set-top boxes, can capture and utilize data about each subscriber's interests, with their consent, that can help carriers sell value-added services.

For carriers, Chambers said TelePresence is to the business market what Apple's iPhone is to consumers. The company has sold about 1,000 TelePresence units to 200 enterprise accounts, De Beer said. But Cisco is also pushing downmarket with the technology. By this time next year, the company plans to have a consumer model for the home on the market, priced in the range of high-definition TVs, he said.

Other demonstrations included a user of Cisco's WebEx collaboration platform joining in to a TelePresence meeting -- a capability soon to be announced, according to De Beer -- and a digital sign that displayed personalized information after a user waved an identification card. It showed a map with directions to the user's next meeting.

Video, along with Web 2.0 collaboration technologies, is already driving demand for Cisco's bread and butter of network connectivity, Chambers said. Cisco sees data traffic on carriers' networks, for example, growing between 100 percent and 500 percent per year, and the company is selling about 50 of its CRS-1 (Carrier Routing System) core routers per week. The company got out on the front of that demand four years ago when it introduced the CRS-1, Chambers said. He likened the advent of video and other technologies for collaboration to the period when the Web was first emerging.

"We're about to see an instant replay. This is the mid-90s," Chambers said.

With that outlook, Chambers said he's confident of the company's standing long-term forecast of 12 percent to 17 percent year-over-year revenue growth per quarter. Cisco has missed that range in some recent quarters.

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