This is not your father's Cisco

Networking-equipment giant continues to expand its product line into such things as home audio, but in the process, it risks losing a unified corporate mission.

I admit that I can't figure out the new Cisco Systems. It's making a big push into consumer electronics, as reported by CNET, adding things like home audio systems to its portfolio of products.

In tandem, it's building out a corporate collaboration story, complemented by things like telepresence solutions.

Does Cisco still provide networking equipment?

The answer, of course, is yes, but I wonder if the company risks diluting its brand as it makes forays into markets beyond networking. Perhaps that's the point.

Cisco has been exploring new markets in order to find new areas for growth, a normal pursuit by megacompanies, both in terms of new products and new geographies. This is what companies that measure their revenues in billions of dollars must do in order to grow by billions of dollars.

But I'm losing track of just what Cisco stands for, and I assume that I'm not alone in this. Even as the company grows, it needs to maintain a common theme to that growth. It says it "enables people to make powerful connections--whether in business, education, philanthropy, or creativity." That's a great mission, but how does home audio fit into that statement? Making powerful connections with one's music in one's home? I don't get it.

Sure, Cisco isn't alone in overstepping the boundaries of its mission. Microsoft's entry into the gaming market with the Xbox doesn't exactly fit into its implicit corporate mission to reduce the cost, and improve the ease of use, of software. Perhaps once a company reaches a certain heft, it doesn't need to have every division singing to the same sheet music.

Even so, I can't shake the feeling that Cisco still has a lot of room to grow within its general "networking everything" mission without getting into things like home audio. If you disagree, please let me know why.

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