The past two months have proven a watershed period for cooperation in this growing segment of the industry as well as for Cisco's place in it. In September, Cisco, Hayes Microcomputer Products, Samsung, and others agreed to deliver products on the Data over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS), an industry specification for cable hardware. DOCSIS is managed by the Multimedia Cable Network Systems (MCSN) partners, a consortium of large cable providers.
The Sony deal appears to further fill in the manufacturing picture. Sony will build cable modems and other cable-based internetworking products based on reference designs from Cisco. These products will support DOCSIS. Sony cable modems would primarily be directed at home users and become available through retailers or access providers. The Japanese electronics giant, however, did not state when it would release its products.
"High-bandwidth networking into the home will become very commonplace in the near future, and Sony will be using its expertise to develop exciting new network-based products targeted for the home environment," said Yoshihiro Shimada, general manager of Sony Computer Peripherals, in a prepared statement.
Although Cisco has primarily concentrated on back-room networking products for businesses, the company is emerging as a pervasive player in the communications industry as the Internet spreads, according to Brad Baldwin, an analyst at International Data Corporation.
Despite the fact that cable modems will primarily be used by consumers, getting involved in their development is a natural extension for Cisco, he said. "Cable is a form of network access," he said, and therefore it impacts Cisco's core businesses. Eventually, Cisco is likely to expand further in the service realm.
"Cisco is looking to be come a larger provider of services," he said. "It is trying to be a much larger player in communications."