Arik Hesseldahl

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Cisco’s Flirtation With Consumers Is Over, as Belkin Buys Linksys Unit

cisco_linksys_gearLooking back, it’s hard to figure out what networking giant Cisco Systems ever wanted with consumer goods, anyway. But now the distraction of trying to sell stuff to consumers and not companies is gone.

Word just hit the wires that Belkin, the company behind numerous consumer accessory products like Web cams, power strips, cables, phone cases and such, just announced that it will buy Cisco’s consumer home networking unit, Linksys. Financial terms aren’t being disclosed, at least not by Belkin as yet, though the price may show up in a Cisco filing sooner or later. However, the company, which has an existing consumer networking business, says the deal will give it a 30 percent foothold in the retail home and small-business networking market, where competitors who come to mind include the likes of Netgear, Apple and D-Link.

The sale essentially completes the process that Cisco started in 2011 when it shut down Pure Digital, a high-profile consumer brand it acquired that was best known as the maker of the popular line of Flip Digital video cameras. Another consumer product to get the ax at Cisco in recent months: The Umi home video conferencing product.

Here’s Belkin’s announcement:

BELKIN ANNOUNCES INTENT TO ACQUIRE CISCO’S HOME NETWORKING BUSINESS UNIT

Acquisition to Bolster Belkin’s Position in the Home Networking Market, Building on the Strong Linksys Brand and Innovative Suite of Product and Software Solutions

Playa Vista, Calif. – January 24, 2013 – Belkin, a private company based in Playa Vista, Calif., with operations and sales in more than 100 countries, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Cisco’s Home Networking Business Unit, including its proven products, technology, well-known Linksys brand and talented employees. With global operations, Linksys’ main office is located in Irvine, Calif.

“We’re very excited about this announcement,” said Chet Pipkin, CEO of Belkin. “Our two organizations share many core beliefs – we have similar beginnings and share a passion for meeting the real needs of our customers through the strengths of an entrepreneurial culture. Belkin’s ultimate goal is to be the global leader in the connected home and wireless networking space and this acquisition is an important step to realizing that vision.”

Belkin intends to maintain the Linksys brand and will offer support for Linksys products as part of this transaction. All valid warranties will be honored by Belkin for current and future Linksys products. After the transaction closes, Belkin will account for approximately 30 percent of the U.S. retail home and small business networking market.

“Linksys pioneered wireless connectivity capability around the globe, and has a strong brand renowned for its premium market position, the strength of its installed base and its proven dependability. Linksys users benefit from peace of mind in their home networking environment. At Belkin we have developed great insight into consumer needs, and the experiences, solutions and products we bring to the market, including our WeMo home automation platform, will help us to grow Linksys’ market presence,” Pipkin said.

“Linksys is one of the leading home networking providers and has created a market-leading suite of products and services to meet customer needs,” said Hilton Romanski, VP Corporate Business Development, Cisco. “While part of Cisco, Linksys has continuously innovated, while strengthening the brand and expanding its market leadership. As part of Cisco’s commitment to service providers, we are pleased about this strategic relationship with Belkin to build on Linksys’ position of strength.”

”With complementary innovation and engineering strategies in the combined organization, Belkin will be able to create new opportunities for consumers, distribution partners and resellers, and will have the strongest retail presence in the U.S. networking marketplace. Belkin also will have access to a large installed base that will be able to upgrade their networking environment to take advantage of new technologies in the smartphone, tablet, notebook and home automation arenas,” Pipkin said. “Additionally, Linksys will enhance Belkin’s capabilities to meet the needs of the service provider space and small business users.”

Belkin and Cisco intend to develop a strategic relationship on a variety of initiatives including retail distribution, strategic marketing and products for the service provider market. Having access to Cisco’s specialized software solutions across all of Belkin’s product lines will bring a more seamless user experience for customers. Merging the innovation capabilities of Linksys and Belkin provides a powerful platform from which to develop the next generation of home networking technology.

“At Belkin, we’re committed to enabling great experiences for users of today’s mobile and connected home technologies,” Pipkin said. “The acquisition of Linksys and the combination of Belkin’s and Linksys’ expertise and innovation will position us to meet the demands of today’s rapidly evolving advances in technology. We look forward to honoring the heritage of the Linksys brand and investing in the continuing evolution of its product portfolio. Together, we will provide a powerful, simple to use, and reliable wireless and networking platform for the markets we serve.”

Specific financial terms of the transaction are undisclosed. The transaction is subject to various standard closing conditions and is expected to close in March 2013.


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