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Lucent CEO stokes networking rivalry

Rich McGinn addresses advances in the communications market at Spring Internet World '99, highlighting a couple of Lucent strengths, as well as Cisco shortcomings.

LOS ANGELES--Competition in the networking equipment industry may get down to the real nitty-gritty in the market, but in these heady days of high stock valuations, it also manifests itself in the tried-and-true stump speech.

In advance of an appearance from the CEO of rival Cisco Systems, Lucent chief executive Rich McGinn took to the podium to hail the advances in communications and networking, and to highlight the connected "revolution" that is underway.

McGinn addressed the crowd at the Spring Internet World '99 industry trade show amid a climate of increased competition in the data and networking world.

Lucent and Nortel Networks are going head-to-head for a greater piece of the Net equipment pie, while rival Cisco is ramping up its strategy to trump Lucent's traditional strength in voice switching devices.

The executive laid out his familiar vision for networks as a means to highlight Lucent's role on the Net.

"We're in an era that will be remembered as a communications revolution," he said.

However, the CEO said that the Internet is "only part of what's happening." McGinn stressed the importance of high-speed wireless data connections and revamped cellular services going forward--two markets in which rival Cisco does not have a large presence.

Executives from Cisco have ratcheted up their own campaign to win the hearts and minds of network builders, calling Lucent's and Nortel's market approach 'old world' while calling the equipment they sell 'a dinosaur infrastructure.' The conference audience is sure to expect more of the same when Cisco chief John Chambers takes the stage tomorrow morning.

Both companies are benefiting on Wall Street from increased investor interest in the networking world. Lucent's stock split recently, and Cisco's continues to hover near a 52-week high, though a series of acquisitions have tempered the stock's performance this week.