Video the new frontier for Cisco

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Video is the next frontier Cisco Systems aims to conquer, company CEO John Chambers told an audience here of industry analysts from around the world.

The next phase of business and Internet growth will be driven by collaborative technologies, he said, which will help organizations drive innovation and productivity. Cisco, through its TelePresence and unified communications technologies, has the expertise to be the leader, he said. And the company will lead through example.

Although TelePresence, a video meeting product that allows participants talk to each other via large LCD monitors, is only a year old, Chambers said he will increasingly use it to do business.

“I spend over 75 per cent of my time touching customers, travelling around the world,” he said. “I think over the next three years I will double the number of customers I touch (using video meetings) and cut my travelling in half.”

“If we are successful it will be hard for our peers to keep up,” he said.

That is a bold prediction, given that companies from Microsoft to Nortel are also pushing collaboration, including video.

In the short term, organizations don’t see it as vital as Chambers painted it, said Forrester Research analyst Chris Silva, interviewed after the CEO’s address, which even the company acknowledges. He noted that a slide Chambers showed on video use over the next five years predicts the biggest leap will take place in 2010, when networks will be better able to handle the bandwidth.

“Cisco, HP, Polycom, all these companies are taking their converged voice solutions and focusing on video,” said Silva. “But he (Chambers) made the point that video chews up massive amounts of bandwidth. Cisco has a more vested interest in building out a more healthy, robust network across organizations than other players, so I think their use of video right now is their best bet to continue their drive to proliferate wireless networks and more capable core networks in all the orgs they work with.”

The conference, dubbed C-Scape, is aimed at giving industry and financial analysts an idea of where Cisco is going in the coming years and how it is executing on its strategy.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, Chambers painted the company as a leader in the technologies that will drive business forward from carrier products to the enterprise. While he emphasized the importance of video, which he said will give businesses the ability to dramatically transform their business processes, Chambers also said social networking tools will be the backbone to collaboration.

“It took us six years to really grasp the power of social networking,” he confessed. “But once the culture adjusted, we will transform how we touch our customers. And within three years it will be almost all be virtual. That will not only lead to a more effective way of doing it, it will allow talent throughout Cisco and our partners to come together on an opportunity or a problem with a speed that did not exist before.”

He also vowed that Cisco will move from “a box mentality” to a total architecture platform for the enterprise and the home, where Cisco is represented by Linksys routers and Scientific American TV settop boxes.

“If you think of where we’re going, the biggest play of all is virturalization — [connectivity with] any device, any content in any format you want anywhere in the world, with the proper security at the edges.” There are no shortage of growth opportunities, he said, it’s how well the company executes.

“Are there big hurdles? Absolutely. Could we be wrong? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t bet against us.”