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New boss named at Linksys

Cisco taps former CEO of Polaroid as the leader of Linksys, its home networking and consumer electronics division.

As Linksys, the home-networking and consumer division of Cisco Systems, enters the next phase of growth, the company is bringing in a new leader.

On Thursday, Cisco plans to announce that J. Michael Pocock, the former CEO of Polaroid, has been appointed to the position of Linksys senior vice president and general manager. Victor Tsao and Janie Tsao, Linksys founders who have shared this title since 2003, will now focus their efforts on new opportunities in China for Cisco.

In this role, Pocock will oversee worldwide Linksys operations, sales, marketing, human resources, training, customer advocacy and all product development and engineering. He will report to Charles Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer and Linksys president.

Cisco's $550 million acquisition of Linksys back in 2003 marked the company's entry into the consumer market. For the last three years, the division has established itself as a leader in the home networking category, providing consumers and small businesses with Wi-Fi routers and IP telephony gear.

Linksys today generates roughly a billion dollars in revenue a year for Cisco, Giancarlo said. And as Cisco, which just reported $7.32 billion for the fiscal 2006 third quarter, looks to grow its bottom line, it's counting on Linksys to generate multiple billions of dollars a year in revenue.

"In order to reach our goals, it requires Linksys to be involved in more than one business," Giancarlo said. "Growth in the home networking market has slowed in the U.S. and around the world. Consumer electronics and small business systems will help Linksys grow into a multibillion-dollar-a-year division."

Cisco has already acquired other companies to kick-start this effort. Last summer, it acquired Kiss Technologies, a small European DVD maker. And earlier this year, it closed the $7 billion acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta, the No. 2 maker of set-top boxes for cable systems. Using these acquisitions as a foundation, Cisco plans to develop products that will sit on the home network to enable a variety of entertainment options such as Internet-based TV, music or photo sharing.

Pocock has experience developing consumer products and knows how to market them, Cisco said. After joining Polaroid in 2003, he helped the company become a top seller of portable DVD players and enter the MP3 handheld and plasma TV markets.

"Mike has a terrific background," Giancarlo said. "He's been an entrepreneur. He's worked at large companies. He's a seasoned executive who really likes the challenge of taking companies to the next level of growth."