That's Not a Carrier-Level Routing System, It's a Wireless Stereo
“Cisco wireless music system.” To the home entertainment enthusiast those words make about as much sense as “Apple carrier-level routing system.” But to Cisco (CSCO) they’re perfectly logical, and the beginnings of a new growth business. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the company plans to introduce a new line of products, among them a wireless digital stereo system and an Internet video set-top box.
Consumer electronics devices like these seem an odd shift in direction for a company whose core business has long been peddling switches and routers. But for Cisco it’s another step toward the end-to-end triple play solution for carrier networks and the digital home it’s been yammering on about since acquiring Scientific Atlanta in 2005. Question is, can a company whose name is synonymous with routers and switches expand its brand to include consumer electronics? Certainly, it’s no easy task. Said John MacFarlane, CEO of Sonos, the company that developed what’s now the gold standard in wireless digital stereo systems, “I don’t think that when they hear the name Cisco they think of great products in consumer electronics.”
Now, MacFarlane clearly has a horse in this race, but he speaks the truth. Cisco’s not a brand one expects to see in, say, Magnolia Audio Video. Which begs the question: Is a connected audio component really the best strategy here? “I can’t help but wonder why Cisco is not simply focusing on enabling the connectivity and distribution piece on the network rather than going for the end-point,” Jonathan Greene writes over at Atmasphere. “I’d rather have something neutral that provides access to content (and not just music, btw) where I want it–whether that’s in my house or pushed out to my mobile device. The limited info on the upcoming Cisco product seems to limit the usefulness to a connected audio component. These typically sit in your stereo rack connected to your home network and stream content through as though it was in your audio player. Sounds a lot like Sonos, AppleTV and quite a few other boxes that have been sold with considerably less success.”