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Cisco pitches Net as educational tool

The networking equipment leader's chief executive touts education over the Internet as the next big "application" for the medium.

LAS VEGAS--Move over e-commerce. "E-learning" is the next big thing on the Internet, Cisco Systems' Chief Executive John Chambers said today.

Education over the Web is in its infancy, but it will soon take off just like shopping over the Internet has, Chambers said during his keynote speech at the Comdex computer trade show this morning.

"The Internet infrastructure in a company or in a country determines competitiveness, but it goes hand in hand with education," Chambers said today, tying his company's expertise to higher learning.

"Education knows no boundaries. The Internet is the change agent for how education will be performed. It will be the hottest application in two years."

Cisco is the largest provider of networking equipment for data networks and a significant player in creating technology that speeds Internet traffic. Though the company 's roots are based in corporate network hardware, Cisco has expanded its product base to offer routing and switching devices for Internet service providers (ISP) and phone companies.

During a press conference, Chambers admitted that Cisco could benefit directly from a boom in education over the Net. Not only will his employees improve their productivity, he said, but "it will help us sell a lot of equipment."

Chambers also said he believes his company will eventually lead the market for wireless technology. Cisco recently acquired Aironet, a maker of wireless networking technology for businesses.

Cisco plans to target both the business and the home market for wireless technology, he said. "If you've watched what we've done, we've been No. 1 or No. 2 in every market we've been in with at least 25 percent market share. Time will tell, but I'm cautiously optimistic."

When asked about Nortel Networks recent decision to cut its router prices by half, Chambers said he was not concerned about the move and had no plans to cut prices or change Cisco's own strategic direction.