Could Cisco be announcing a killer set-top box?

Company is hyping a major news announcement for Tuesday morning, which some speculate could include an all-in-one set-top box that does just about everything.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

Cisco Systems is set to make a major announcement Tuesday morning that the tech company says "will forever change the Internet."

Could this announcement include an AppleTV-like set-top box that does just about everything?

Exactly what Cisco will be revealing is still under wraps, but some industry watchers are speculating that the announcement will include several products that will provide a grand overview of Cisco's end-to-end vision of the Internet that will include new infrastructure products, as well as new consumer devices for the home.

One of the products that could be announced is an AppleTV-like set-top box based on technology from Scientific Atlanta, according to the blog SiliconAngle. Cisco bought Scientific Atlanta four years ago and has been selling the company's set-top boxes to cable companies. But it has yet to use the platform to launch a consumer product line.

According to SiliconAngle, this new box supposedly will "do it all." It will combine digital video recorder functionality found in a TiVo, video streaming from the Web, Internet access, wireless connectivity, and telepresence. It will also have massive amounts of storage for home media.

Cisco has already talked about testing telepresence in the home. Currently, the company sells a very high-end video conferencing telepresence system to large companies.

"It makes sense," said Zeus Kerravala, a senior vice president at Yankee Group. "Cisco must have bought Scientific Atlanta for some reason other than traditional set-top box market. And it's tangential to the router/switch business."

Other components of the announcement could include a partnership with service providers for ultra-high-speed access to the home and 100 Gigabit Ethernet on some new routers.

Cisco will likely wrap all these products and announcements into a grand vision of how it sees the future of the Internet.

Cisco has been hyping the event, which starts at 8 a.m. PST Tuesday, for a couple of weeks. It sent notices to reporters and analysts inviting them to view a Web presentation about a "significant announcement" that it claims "will forever change the Internet and its impact on consumers, businesses and governments."

Initially, blogs buzzed about Cisco possibly announcing a super-fast fiber network to test ultra-fast broadband technologies. Google had announced plans to build its ultra-high-speed fiber test bed the same week Cisco sent out the media advisory.

But Cisco has quieted those rumors by stating that the company's strategy remains to partner with carriers. It's not looking to compete with them.

Others have speculated the new announcement might also include products that will help wireless operators upgrade their networks to 4G wireless technology.

Cisco, which has traditionally provided wired infrastructure to Internet service providers, spent $2.9 billion last fall for Starent Networks, a company that helps wireless operators connect their networks to the wired Internet.

The purchase was significant for Cisco because it gave the company technology it was missing. Before its Starent acquisition, Cisco was unable to offer an end-to-end solution to wireless operators. But its competitors could. For example, competitors Alcatel Lucent and Ericsson already provide similar wireless Internet access infrastructure gear that Cisco got from Starent, as well as equipment that Cisco has traditionally offered to Internet services providers. Now with the Starent gear, Cisco can compete head-to-head with these rivals on an end-to-end basis.

"The timing is right for Cisco to make a big wireless platform announcement," Kerravala said.

But are any of these announcements truly going to change the Internet forever?

Probably not.

"I can't imagine any of these new products or announcements having that kind of impact," Kerravala said. "That's a bold statement. But I think Cisco is trying to gain mindshare in the consumer network and wireless markets. So this is likely the hype cycle they've created to do that."