Time to stress mobility, says Cisco chief

Leaping from a faux coffee shop to a sleek sports car to the Las Vegas Hilton ballroom floor, Cisco Systems Inc. president and CEO John Chambers, demonstrated at Comdex Fall Monday how network-enabled productivity tools will become a make-or-break factor in the ability of companies to survive.

“Business today is all about revenues and cash flow and if you can show that an application will improve these people will buy it,” Chambers said.

Finding an application that people will pay for is the challenge for Cisco and other technology companies touting their wares at Comdex this year amid a global economic slump. But, according to Chambers, network-enabled productivity tools will be the answer for companies that need to bolster cash flow and fatten their bottom lines.

Demonstrating Voice over IP (Internet Protocol) over 802.11b wireless local area networks (LANs), wireless Internet cards and content delivery tools, Chambers said that anywhere, anytime work applications are the answer for companies looking to get a competitive edge in a tough business climate.

“This is a productivity war fought not only within your company, but within the entire corporate environment,” Chambers said.

Driving productivity are new tools that allow companies to create networked virtual organizations that leverage the power of the Internet, Chambers said.

To demonstrate this, Chambers connected to a wireless LAN located in a coffee shop stage set and feigned calling Intel Corp. chairman Andy Grove via Cisco’s IP soft phone technology which can emulate users’ office phones on their desktops.

He then wielded Compaq Computer Corp.’s iPAQ Pocket PC with a wireless LAN card to roll up the window of a sports car parked onstage.

“Mobility gives you flexibility,” Chambers declared.

The Comdex audience appeared impressed. When asked what he thought of Chambers’ presentation, Tom Ryan, chief operating officer of Wireless Data Services Ltd. based in Seattle, Wash., called the speech “tremendous, Chambers was optimistic and bullish.”

“The demo was relevant and interesting to watch. The wireless LAN stuff is very practicable and I enjoyed the wireless automobile demo,” said Ryan.

“Some of the things (Chambers showed) were not outside of my imagination,” said Ramesh Gohil, president of Ivaroop Inc., a Coral Springs, Fla.-based hardware consulting company. “He made the audience aware that people who use the latest technology improve productivity and stay ahead of the competition.”

Flashy demos aside, Chambers’ message was of a more serious tone: that in order for businesses to survive, they must improve their productivity, using networks to further enable and educate their workforces.

“There’s nothing that produces a change in behavior like survival,”Chambers said.

(Joris Evers contributed to this report.)

Cisco, in San Jose, Calif., is at http://www.cisco.com/.