LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Cisco Systems Chief Executive John Chambers said he expects to make a “stream of acquisitions” with a particular focus on video, as part of an effort to remake the company as a consumer electronics brand.
“Video is the key application that I focus on,” Chambers told Reuters, when asked where he expects to make the acquisitions after a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“It isn’t just data categories or voice categories. We see it in visual as well,” he said.
During the presentation, Chambers promised the audience a consumer technology-related acquisitions and new consumer product announcements, as often as every two months, from Cisco, the world’s largest maker of switches and routers that connect Internet traffic.
“You will see a steady stream of product announcements, of partnership announcements and acquisition announcements,” he said.
Cisco, which analysts have said would face challenges reinventing itself as a consumer brand, was “really committed to this consumer market.” The company is showcasing a wireless home audio system linked to an online media service at CES, for example.
“We’re putting the whole power of the company behind it,” he said.
Chambers declined to answer any questions about the economy, or whether visibility had improved since the company reported earnings in October. He opened his presentation with a warning that reporters should not take anything he was about to say as a comment on the economy.
The executive did say he sees the weak economic environment as good timing for Cisco to invest in the consumer segment as the company can use its cash position and broad product focus to support new projects, compared with rivals depending on one or two consumer products.
“It plays to our advantage because we have $27 billion in cash,” Chambers said. “What we’ve traditionally done in each of the downturns, we’ve invested in that time and used the opportunity to move into new areas.”
Chambers said the company would come out with a consumer version of its TelePresence video conferencing product later this year, with prices “dramatically different” from the fees businesses pay for the technology.
He is banking on many consumers having already invested in high-definition television screens, which are needed for the service and which would otherwise be a large part of the cost, he said.
Chambers also said that a consumer version of Cisco’s TelePresence technology would not require the same level of complexity as business installations, which include big HD screens with built-in microphone and camera lenses, and cost between $34,000 and $300,000 per unit.
He said TelePresence for businesses was one of the company’s most successful products ever, in terms of the ability to make executives interested in it.
“We’ll see if we can capture the same excitement in the home,” he said.
Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz
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