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Cisco defines 'mobility'

For Cisco Systems, mobility means connecting any device, on any network, anytime, anywhere.

BARCELONA, Spain--Mobility means different things to different companies. For Cisco Systems, it means more than just taking your handset or MP3 on the go.

It's about connecting any device to any network from anywhere at anytime.

"This will be the next phase of the Internet," Cisco CEO John Chambers said at an event on Monday previewing a keynote address he will be giving Tuesday morning at the GSMA's Mobile World Congress here. This is the first time ever that Cisco, the leading supplier of IP infrastructure equipment in the world, is addressing the cell phone industry in this forum.

In many ways it's fitting that Cisco, the company that has essentially helped build the Internet, would be turning toward mobile. And it's this focus on the network that has shaped Chambers' views on what mobility really means.

"Most people talk about mobility in terms of a device," he told analysts and reporters Monday. "But the challenge is to think of mobility as the ability to connect any device to any content at any time, anywhere in any mode. It really goes across a combination of networks."

Chambers said that applications and the information that users are trying to access are what should be mobile, not the device itself. And it shouldn't matter whether the information is accessed on a wireless network or over one that is wired.

He said a hybrid approach is the most likely way to address consumers' needs. In some cases, a wired broadband network will be the best choice, while in other cases a wireless infrastructure will serve consumers' needs better.

One thing is certain: Cisco doesn't see a single technology as the answer. Chambers said the company would keep its options open as it evolves its wireless and mobile strategies. For example, even though Cisco recently paid $330 million to buy the WiMax start-up Navini Networks, it doesn't mean the company will push only WiMax solutions. In fact, he pointed out the danger of getting into a religious technology battle.

"You can't fall in love with one technology over another," he said. "There are lots of people who would have told you that ATM to the desktop was the best solution. But it was fast Ethernet that won the day."