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Cisco’s business relationship challenge

by David Mercer | 12月 12, 2007

Well, after day one at C-Scape I'm not much the wiser. The consumer tech vision is clear, but then it's not new either. What surprises me is that no Cisco exec has given me the same answer regarding the company's biggest challenge as it seeks growth in consumer media markets. The bulk of Cisco's revenues today comes from service providers, ie companies that depend on the end user relationship for a direct revenue stream. Scientific Atlanta, which is the company's major consumer technology division, depends on a similar relationship - consumers paying cable companies for TV and broadband service, and getting an SA set-top box for free as part of the deal. So much is transparent. Then Dan Scheinman, Cisco's SVP Media Solutions, described how Cisco is approaching media companies to help them distribute media to connected home devices, something we have talked about for many years at Strategy Analytics. Earlier in the day, as I mentioned previously, Cisco had invited the BBC's Erik Huggers to describe how the Beeb was offering full-length TV shows streamed over the web. So we naturally assumed Dan was talking about the same thing. But when I mentioned to Dan that what he was offering seemed to conflict with the SciAtl model of supporting managed delivery via network providers, he seemed taken aback. And he then suggested that he had been referring only to "short-form" video in his presentation, rather than full-length TV shows or movies. Longer-form video was apparently not quite ready for primetime, partly because it was not being distributed to TV sets yet. But then, I thought that's what Linksys was all about. Earlier in the day I spent time with Steve Silva, who joined Cisco from Comcast earlier this year. Steve is focusing on the home network device segment, and recognised the fact that the needs of service providers to manage devices across the home network could be in conflict with the needs of device manufacturers to develop products independently of service providers. In other words, Cisco's Linksys division sells products in the open retail market, but SciAtl sells devices to service providers. If Linksys sells a device that lets consumers stream video direct to the TV without the user having to subscribe to cable TV, it is competing with a set-top box provided by the cable operator (assuming the available content is similar, which is admittedly a big assumption). I am getting the impression that Cisco has just not given enough thought to managing the conflicting business relationships that are creating turmoil across the digital media and technology value chain. The company seems to expect, probably with good reason, that, whatever the outcome, it will do very nicely, thank you. After all, all content and devices will all be IP-based, one way or another. But it seems to have a blind spot about the impact all this could have on its existing customer base, and that should be cause for concern. I know Skip MacAskill, Cisco's AR man, is busy with managing the event, but these issues do seem to have been put left off the agenda. Perhaps we'll get more insight tomorrow. Client Reading: Digital Disruption: Imminent and Long Term Threats to the Audiovisual Industry Online HD: Disney’s ABC Throws Down Gauntlet To Competitors, and Access Providers Add to Technorati Favorites
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