No pressure here, but ahead of Cisco Systems' big webcast Tuesday morning, the company itself claimed the news would "forever change the internet and its impact on consumers, businesses and governments."
You can imagine the speculative fuse that lit: Some bloggers and trade pubs claimed that Ciscowould be announcing plans to build out its own high-speed network to compete with the recently announced pilot plans by Googleto build out a superfast high speed network of its own. Others have speculated that the company would be unveiling new wireless technology to alleviate some of the enormous stress placed on wireless networks thanks to smart phones, netbooks and the accelerating trend of tablet computers.
While all of that sounds intriguing, I'm told they're all unlikely.
Far more likely is that Cisco delivers on its stated promise of the next generation of tools so that its network service provider customers, including AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and so many others, can deliver on their own plans to build out new networks, and unclog the increasingly clogged arteries of the networks that are already out there. Cisco made big headlines when it first released the CRS-1, the so-called Carrier Routing System. It debuted in 2004 and quickly became the largest production router ever made. Look for this announcement to build on that kind of technology.
With Cisco moving almost frenetically into so many different networking and telecom adjacencies, the company is being accused by some of reducing its focus on its core business; taking its eye off the ball. That didn't stop JPMorgan from its upgrade today, but others are worried that too many directions all at once, away from its router business, might send the wrong signals. Their worst case: Cisco announces plans to build out a network of its own and begins to compete with the very service providers upon Cisco relies for its growth. Best case: Cisco cedes the router market to competitors like Hewlett-Packard and IBM who are making inroads in the server market and have announced plans to expand their beachheads.
I'd be stunned if Cisco went down those paths. Cisco will unveil new tools tomorrow that come at the best possible time in their evolution. Research and development at Cisco, especially on the equipment the company relies on, takes years. Timing for their release is critical. If Cisco can come up with a veritable telecommunications stent that can unblock the clogged networking infrastructure just as wireless and video downloads and the National Broadband Strategy grab hold of this nation's consciousness, then chalk up a big win on Cisco CEO John Chambers' scorecard.
The timing is golden.
Competition is fierce right now, and while it would be easier to make a big deal out of a new network, or a new smart phone, or some consumer gadget that we could see and play with and understand its impact, don't discard the power of a new Cisco tool that lives in a backroom in some darkened building somewhere that stops my smart phone from dropping calls, and lets me download video 100 times faster than I can today. Cisco makes the tracks, but it's the railroads themselves that come up with all those spiffy engines and cars to get stuff from one place to another safely, and in some cases, in style.
Cisco builds the tracks. It will always build the tracks. That's its core. Tuesday's webcast will focus on new ties and rails that so many of its customers have been clamoring for.