Confirmed: Cisco's Lost Their 'Mojo'

By John Honovich, Published May 10, 2011, 08:00pm EDT

For years, we've been critical of Cisco's video surveillance efforts and the whole Cisco 'mystique'. In 2008, we projected that "Cisco will be a minor force in video surveillance primarily selling video surveillance solutions into existing Cisco accounts." This stood agains the industry consensus at the time that Cisco was going to 'disrupt' the surveillance industry. Since then, Cisco's position overall has declined and their surveillance positioning has become more joke than force.

Like Microsoft, even after their core technological advantages mitigated, their overall mystique lingered. As a May 2011 NY Times article shows the Cisco mystique is now gone as well, leading with a gloomy opening about how Cisco's CEO, "one of the best salesmen in Silicon Valley, has been having trouble selling anyone on his company’s future." Unwavering optimism has been replaced by apologies, excuses and restructuring. It's finally now taken its toll on the broader public opinion of Cisco.

Seeing the shift in surveillance industry sentiment in the last 3 years has been enlightening. In 2008, any article about Cisco would generate surges in traffic, far more than any other video surveillance manufacturer. By the end of 2010, the level of interest and readership on Cisco surveillance offerings declined to that of mid tier manufacturer levels. The fear of Cisco, once palable, is now gone.

Here's the timeline we see for Cisco in surveillance:

  • 2007 - 'Oh My God! Cisco is Going to Kill Us'
  • 2009 - 'What the Hell is Cisco Doing?' - e.g., Cisco Partners with Pelco
  • 2011 - 'Who Cares About Cisco?'

Brand can only carry companies so far if the products are not competitive in meeting real customer's needs. In surveillance, Cisco's best (and most honest in our minds), explanation of their strategy was that Cisco targets customers who will 'buy anything' from them. That's a short term tactic at best. You can't grow your customer base this way. Eventually your existing customers will realize the practice is tantamount to abuse.

Short of a monster acquisition by Cisco (such as buying Axis), Cisco is doomed to second tier status in surveillance. It will only be tougher now as their brand equity continues to shrink.

Update: Since the publication of this note, speculation on 'huge' Cisco layoffs and Cisco's CEO failure has been in the news.

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