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Cisco already has a presence in the SMB market with its Linksys brand. What does Linksys think about big brother coming into their playpen? Graham Rearden from Linksys answers that question.
IY: You obviously are aware that Cisco is going to do a bit more of its marketing down in the small business market where Linksys is currently playing a very good game. How is that going to affect your business? Are you going to be playing with them or against them?
Graham Rearden (GR): We've obviously got some great plans for the SMB space and will be working closely side by side with Cisco. As you are aware Linksys has a very good consumer arm and we have been moving up into the small business space over the last few years. Obviously as Cisco comes down from their higher-end corporate enterprise space into SMB both of us can play a very good role. Obviously for some customers they are looking for a lot of flexibility in their products and that is where Cisco products are fantastic products to come down into that space offering a lot of reliability and support and a lot of flexibility in that area. Companies such as ourselves on the Linksys side have more simple fixed solutions really. Where customers are looking for a fixed port configuration for example and are really looking for something that doesn't need to be managed and they can put it in and forget about it in their network.
IY: So I guess it is more that Linksys is definitely for the home user who obviously isn't going to ring someone like Cisco and for the small business who wants to just do it themselves until maybe the network grows a bit larger. Then they might want to ring Cisco and say hang on, it is getting complicated?
IY: So you shouldn't really clash in that regard I suppose. If a customer wants you then they don't want the other guys up stream and if they want Cisco they won't be looking at you just yet?
GR: That's right. I think over time what you will see is that as customers demand for their network capacity increases they will obviously be looking to scale up from Linksys type of products into Cisco type of products. We've got some plans in place to make sure that there is a transition path from Linksys into Cisco as the customer's network and IT requirements evolve.
IY: So everything is obviously going to be standardised and it will all work together so there won't be any penalty if they've gone down one path to switch over? As yourself and many other commentators say, the internet is going to play a bigger and bigger role in every business so I suppose there will be more reliance on the internet as part of business and that is when they are going to say oh, I need to be able to ring somebody if it doesn't work?
GR: Yes. A lot of small businesses rely on technology now and moving forward will need that more and more. Everything from their IT infrastructure through their communications security, it is becoming more and more of a necessity to make sure that small businesses have this type of capability to be able to run their business on a day to day basis.
IY: No danger of the Linksys brand disappearing in the near future?
GR: No not somewhere in the near future. Obviously our Cisco CEO John Chambers has announced back in January this year that the brand will fade over time but it is not something that is going to happen straight away now.
IY: Then again I guess it is the same thing with Hewlett Packard; they still use the Compaq name on a few of their products.
GR: I think you will see a transition period that makes sense for Cisco overall. We have a very good brand in small business networking as well as in the consumer space so it doesn't make sense to just turn that off. Over time it makes sense that Cisco becomes more a consumer brand and that is certainly where it is being positioned in the market place.
IY: I suppose that is comforting for customers. If you are a Linksys user, Cisco is not going anywhere so you won't end up on your own even if the brand slowly fades away.