Cisco smartphone expected

Reports are surfacing once again that Cisco plans to come out with a smartphone. According to Business Week, which cites a report from RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue, Cisco may unveil its own smartphone in mid-2010.

Quoting Sue, Business Week says the strategy, if true, would be in keeping with Cisco's burgeoning push into the consumer market. Business Week was also tipped off by some recent Cisco patent filings:

On Mar. 31, Cisco was awarded a patent for managing time delays in relaying video wirelessly to consumer electronics devices. The same day, it received a patent for a network-connected phone able to stream video. Many of Cisco's recently filed patents mention a personal digital assistant as a device that could potentially use the innovations described.

Business Week says Cisco won't comment on the move but company officials indicated that people should not be surprised:

"There are a lot of things people thought we wouldn't do that we can do," says Ken Wirt, vice-president for consumer marketing at Cisco. "We've done some things that have been surprising to people." Former high-level Cisco executives say a move into smartphones would fit well with Cisco's strategy.

Speculation on Cisco's smartphone/PDA plans has been circulating for a couple of years now. It makes sense: the company is looking to drive more video into the network to create demand for more bandwidth capacity to drive sales of its routers and switches. The acquisition of Pure Digital and its Flip handheld camcorder is evidence of that -- expect to see Flip capabilities integrated into the expected smartphone.

Cisco's proven it can sell volumes into the consumer market as well. The company claims it sold more than 168 million devices to consumers in 2008, more than the total number of iPods sold, according to the Business Week story.  

And it's no coincidence that Wirt is a former Palm executive, and Cisco CTO Padma Warrior is from Motorola. Indeed, Cisco may look to those companies as possible acquisition targets for its smartphone/PDA plans, Business Week notes; or it could develop its own device internally.

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