Cisco Rethinking SMB Strategy

Cisco has been racing to shed its consumer and low-end products from its portfolio, in favor of its more traditional enterprise offerings. If the telegraphs from its SMB sales director are any indication, Cisco is not giving up on the SMB market when it comes to networking, cloud computing and mobility.

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Over the last two years, Cisco has made several logical moves in shedding underperforming and non-core products from its portfolio – most in the consumer and SMB segments. It discontinued the Umi home video conferencing system; killed off the Cius tablet and shuttered the Flip video camera and is walking away from the low-end set top box business.

Surprisingly, though, Cisco last month sold off its Linksys networking business to Belkin for an undisclosed amount. Most press and analysts positioned the deal as a divestiture of a consumer division and sign of Cisco’s refocusing on the enterprise. Conveniently overlooked is Linksys is as much of a SMB brand of products as it was consumer.

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As Cisco pivots back to the enterprise and focuses more on core network switches, virtualized data centers, cloud computing and unified communications, will it mean the end of Cisco in the SMB segment?

Hardly, given the telegraph dispatches from Gordon Mackintosh, director of SMB Sales in Cisco’s Worldwide Partner Led organization.

Mackintosh earlier this week released a foreshadowing video about Cisco’s desires to remain a player in the SMB segment and the need to do more to enable partners to play in this potential $25 billion market.

Cisco sees cloud computing, mobility and BYOD (bring your own device) trends as drivers of new SMB spend.

As Mackintosh says, “They’re starting to value the network as more strategic than ever before and are looking to the network as a key asset for productivity sales growth through reaching new customers as well as attracting the best people in the industry. SMB customers will become some of the fastest adopters of cloud and BYOD, two of the big mega trends in our industry today, all of this offers just a phenomenal opportunity for Cisco and its partners.”

Mackintosh admits Cisco isn’t the easiest vendor for SMB-oriented solution providers to work with. Cisco is conducting reviews of its channel relationships, resources and processes to determine changes that will open opportunities and ease of business in this segment.

Just what does all this add up to? Mackintosh is coy on that point, saying that more information about Cisco’s SMB plans will come out over the next several months. Coincidentally, that time line leads right to Cisco’s annual partner conference in Boston this June. Chances are Cisco will make SMB a part of the big channel announcements at the confab.

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