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Cisco CEO: Net is revolution

In his keynote at Comdex, Cisco's John Chambers says the Net will affect people's daily lives as much as the industrial revolution did.

LAS VEGAS--So what drove the CEO of the largest enterprise internetworking equipment

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers
firm to speak at the annual Mecca for consumer gadgetry?

For John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems (CSCO), appearing at the annual Comdex trade show here represents the emergence of networking from its esoteric roots in corporate computing into the mainstream of the computing industry, and the infrastructure for both small businesses and large corporations.


President and CEO John Chambers on the Internet revolution
reason? The Net, of course, which Chambers dramatically compared to the industrial revolution in terms of its significance to people's daily lives. "I don't think the Internet revolution is any different," said Chambers.

For veteran network administrators, the benefits of a network and equipment from the likes of Cisco, as well as competitors such as Bay Networks, 3Com, and Cabletron Systems, are clear. For others, who may work for small businesses or may not correlate investment in networking equipment with success, Chambers may have raised a few eyebrows.

Chambers proclaimed this era to be the fourth generation of the computer industry--a generation focused on the network. He used his own company to prove his point: Cisco will save $250 million via use of Internet and intranet technologies and the company expects to make more than $3 billion from customers placing orders via the Cisco Web site.

"These aren't just

Chambers says training for high-tech professionals isn't there
concepts we're talking about here. They're going to change the way we do business," said Chambers. "Those who don't will get left behind."

Chambers also used the occasion to show a series of videos that openly promoted the company's products as well as how they changed the Cisco customers who used them.

Cisco is a runaway success story in the financial community, with revenues of $6.4 billion for its last fiscal year and a market capitalization of more than $50 billion, which is unrivaled in the networking industry. That figure has prompted some to coin a new phrase, "Wintelco," to connote the dominance of Cisco, along with Microsoft and Intel, in their respective industries.

But some have wondered how long Cisco's dominance will last. The company's high-priced networking devices known as "routers" are facing stiff competition from a variety of firms that are adding routing-style functions to cheaper devices called "switches." Proponents point to Cisco's success in leveraging its bets by producing a line of switches via acquisition that dominates some markets as evidence that its boom will continue.

Many observers believe no one comes close, even the combination of 3Com and US Robotics, which merged earlier this year. "In my view, no one's really close to Cisco and they're distancing themselves from the pack more and more," said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst with Furman Selz, in a recent interview.

Chambers also promoted Cisco's efforts to teach networking principles to children via a program called Cisco Learning Academies, which currently operates in more than 50 schools across 11 states. The CEO said the rollout of the program would continue through all of the United States, as well as Europe and Asia.