Cisco gives Linksys rebate to the upwardly mobile

People can get a 100 percent cash rebate on certain Linksys gear when they trade up to higher-end Cisco products.

Cisco Systems introduced a rebate program on Friday to encourage owners of its Linksys home networking gear to trade up to higher-end products.

Customers can get a 100 percent cash rebate on certain Linksys gear when they switch to Cisco routing, switching and wireless products, the networking giant said Friday. Those who register and qualify must wait 90 days after buying the Linksys gear to apply for the rebate. They have three years after the date of purchase to submit a request.

Cisco, which dominates the market in networking equipment for large companies, entered the consumer market when it bought Linksys in March 2003 for $500 million. Since the acquisition, the company has kept the Cisco branding of its corporate gear separate from that of the Linksys products geared toward consumers and small businesses.

The trade-up program is part of Cisco's push to more aggressively pursue small and midsize business customers. Over the past few months, the company has introduced several sales and marketing programs designed to target this niche.

"As part of our small- and medium-business strategy, this trade-up program helps Cisco to broaden our value proposition to the small-business marketplace," Peter Alexander, Cisco's vice president of worldwide commercial marketing, said in a statement. "The program will also enable Linksys customers to become more informed of Cisco offerings and the business benefits that Cisco networks can provide."

In April, Cisco launched the SMB Class Solutions initiative, a program designed to provide easier-to-use products, and new financing and online education to small and midsize customers. And in July, it announced a new channel partner program targeting that segment.

The company also teamed with Microsoft and began offering customer relationship management (CRM) software for small-business customers in August. On top of this, Cisco announced a rebate program just last week for resellers of gear to smaller firms in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Sales to small and midsize businesses--a large and still relatively untapped market--are key to Cisco's growth. There are currently about 5.6 million such businesses in the United States, making up roughly 97 percent of the entire business market, according to research firm The Yankee Group. As these companies integrate more technology and Internet Protocol-based communication into their businesses, there is a huge opportunity for Cisco and other networking companies to sell them the tools to link these technologies together.