Cisco muffles Linksys death knell

Linksys said it will keep selling both home and SMB products after Cisco's chief suggested the brand eventually would disappear.

The saga of Cisco Systems and its Linksys consumer and small-business division continued last week as Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers hinted at the companies' future branding strategy.

The Linksys brand ultimately will disappear, Chambers said at a roundtable discussion with European press, the Uberpulse blog reported last week. Cisco bought Linksys, already a strong home and small-business networking vendor in the U.S., in 2003.

"It will all come, over time, into a Cisco brand," Chambers said on a YouTube video embedded in the blog. "The reason we kept [the] Linksys brand [was] because it was better known in the U.S. than even Cisco was, for the consumer. As you go globally, there's very little advantage in that."

On Friday, Linksys rushed to clarify that "over time" means a long time, at least.

"Linksys consumer and SMB [small and medium-size business] products will continue to be marketed under the Linksys brand and co-exist in the market with Cisco-branded connected home products over the near term," Linksys said in a prepared statement on Friday. "We will continue to examine our branding strategy going forward (as we have done to date) and make changes if and when these changes add value to our customers' decision-making processes and our channel partners."

In April, Cisco made it easier for Linksys resellers to start selling Cisco products and vice versa. The change in channel strategy coincided with the introduction of Cisco's Smart Business Communication System, a set of unified communications products aimed at enterprises with 20 or fewer employees. The new channel plan was to come into play over two or three months and a branding change might come at the same time, Cisco said at the time.

Cisco says its own products offer features that Linksys gear lacks, but that some businesses may prefer Linksys if they don't need those features or have a smaller budget. Many Linksys products are sold in retail stores, while Cisco products generally are not.

Chambers has said for years that all types of networks will converge into one over time, and that users should be able to get to their applications and contacts from anywhere without having to worry about what network they are using.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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