Cisco Wants To Rule Your Living Room – Launching New High Speed Network With Set Top Box March 9

Update: Cisco Announces upgrade but no set top box and no telepresence. Three out of five of this report announced by Cisco. Reactions were not that favorable.

Update (March 8 2010): Cisco’s Future Is Already Here — Looks like Verizon, Juniper Networks, NEC, and Finistar are demonstrating trials on the eve of Cisco’s big announcement reported by FierceTelcom, Information Week, and released by Verizon today. The announcement came as Cisco was preparing a major announcement for Tuesday, believed to be its entry in the 100G race. Google has already said it plans to test 100G networks in selected regions.

You can take the 100G piece out of the Cisco equation and the notion that Verizon will be standing with Cisco at their podium.

{Editor’s note: We changed the original title to shorten it down a bit based upon some other sites editors who wanted to link to it.. feedback taken. -Cheers John @Furrier}

Old Headline:  Cisco To Announce Apple, Tivi Google So Called Killer SetTop Box Plus A New High Speed Network – Are They Now Competing with Google, Apple, Skype, and Everyone.

According to multiple sources Cisco is preparing to announce on March 9th a massive vision for a land grab dubbed “changing the future of the Internet”.

Future High Speed Network Featuring a New Set Top Consumer Box

image Rumors on Cisco’s announcement from many industry sources are all driving in the same direction.  Cisco appears to be announcing an end-to-end network play.  I’ve heard several different things either will be announced individually or collectively as one big “grand” vision.

Here is what appears to be breaking next week:

1)    An “AppleTV” style cable set top or edge consumer box based on their Scientific Atlanta technology

2)    Partnerships with service providers for ultra high speed access to the home

3)    100 Gigabit Ethernet on their Routers

4)    Content and content delivery offering including lower end telepresence integration with possible content deals

5)    A new vision that integrates the pieces above as owning the vision of the Internet touted as a “grand vision.”

It’s mainly a consumer play for Cisco, but it seems to touch on other markets: 1) consumer, 2) access, 3) edge, 4) core network, and 4) content provider and possibly low end telepresence.

Cisco will be touting the combination or all of the above to be a “complete overhaul” of the existing Internet in a broad “end to end” announcement that would “forever change” its shape and purpose.

Two core messages seem to be coming:

1) Cisco is the future of the internet and that they have support from service providers for high speed networking and web 2.0 apps

and

2) Complete rip and replace all their old gear for new Cisco end to end hardware.

Cisco’s Big Tease for March 9th

A few weeks a go Cisco has mailed out press invitations for a March 9 press and media webcast to “make a significant announcement that will forever change the Internet and its impact on consumers, business and governments.” I never got an invite but I did sign up for the webcast.

The site, has a header that reads “See What’s Possible When Networking Gets an Adrenaline Boost,” and which includes a countdown clock to the March event, says:

Change is about to set your network’s pulse racing in 3… 2… 1…”

Cisco’s next innovation will help service providers prepare for the future by delivering anywhere to anywhere experiences

On March 9, “what’s next” arrives

Check back to see what’s possible

Other than advertising these broad strokes, Cisco has been very tight-lipped about what the March 9 event is about.  Normally it doesn’t take me long to dig around to find out the directions these announcement take, but in this case it took 4 days of hard digging.

According to multiple sources on both east and west coast these are some of the announcement specifics along with my commentary.

IPTV Multifunction SetTop Consumer Box

image It seems that Cisco thru Scientific Atlanta, will be introducing a new kind of SetTop or consumer  box product that purports to “do it all”.   It will combine the functionality of TiVo, video streaming, Internet access, wireless, telepresence, and massive storage. I’m guessing that this is part of the trials that Cisco has been doing – their IPTV delivery with a few providers such as AT&T.  Still waiting to confirm if this is part of those trials.

Last week, I noticed a blog post by Julie Jacobson at CE-Pro that has some interesting comments that went into great detail about the kind of experience that might be expected. It seemed like an insider but not sure who wrote the comment.  That comment was telling:

What if your “cable box” was your content aggregator? What if you could watch 1500 channels at 1080p and have the ability to view shows on demand – i.e. no more DVR, no more recording. What if your home Internet connection was symmetric 1 Gbps and your service provider handed you quad play: TV, phone, Internet and video conferencing? What if your cable box was continually synced to your blackberry or iPhone – so you could watch anything, anywhere?

What’s more interesting is the content and video opportunity.  Additionally there is chatter that telepresence will be coming to the edge.  This is different than Cisco’s current telepresence that is proprietary, high-end functionality, and expensive.

I love telepresence and that is why I Skype video.  On interesting angle would be the notion of telepresence with the flipcamera.  Cisco has been criticized by Wall Street for that acquisition – the flip camera has been called “John Chamber’s web 2.0 toy”.

The idea of a network-based box that can work with consumer devices to provide all the content you need sounds futuristic and convenient. When you combine all this with quad play, content, telepresence, and synchronization with a mobile device or flipcamera, it has an exciting ring to it.

However in reality to pull this off seems off.  It sounds too good to be true not so realistic from one player.  There are issues of complexity both on the technical and business model sides.

A “new kind of box or in this case a “fat box” might have issues around implementation and performance thus consumer uptake.

High Speed Network To Counter Google

The major barrier to “forever changing the Internet” is still the last mile. Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to demand faster Internet speeds as part of its National Broadband Plan to be unveiled on March 17. The FCC wants minimum Internet data transmission speeds of 100 Mbps to 100 million homes within a decade, compared with current industry estimates of less than 4 Mbps.

The Financial Times reported on February 24 that Cisco is developing a new “ultra-high-speed system for internet access in partnership with a number of U.S. service providers, according to people close to the company.” Cisco stated that the US “needs high-speed, future-proof broadband networks that are accessible and affordable to all” and that it “looks forward to being part of this exciting transformation”.

Many folks in the blogosphere seems think this is response to Google’s recent announcement that they intend to be an ISP deploying 1Gbps fiber service to a limited number of consumers for testing purposes. If this is the case, it would mean that Cisco is partnering with key service provider and their customers to design a public relations to counter-punch Google’s announcement.

One of the key partners could be Comcast.  I also heard that AT&T was involved.

Cisco Router Product Upgrades

imageAnother key announcement is their anticipated upgrade to the CRS-1.  Specifically, an upgrade to 140 Gbps/slot capabilities to answer Juniper’s recent performance improvements announced last month.

Cisco has to do this because their competitors are moving fast with product upgrades themselves.  Huawei, Alcatel Lucent, and Juniper all with new products and trials happening.  I’ve blogged about Cisco verses Juniper in the past – Juniper appears to be more open – or as I said “the Google of Networking”.  Also Network World editor Jim Duffy has documented (as did SiliconAngle) that Juniper has higher performance than Cisco.  Don’t forget about Alcatel-Lucent or Huawei.

My Angle on Cisco Grand Vision

Cisco touting an announcement that will forever change the Internet sounds like marketing-speak to me.  Kinda like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.

What can Cisco do to really implement what is already happening in the market today?  I am interested in what is game changing about one vendor owning the end-to-end infrastructure, when the world is going more open with horizontal open stacks verses vertical owned stack.

Cisco seems to be out of touch with the reality of the market place.  My take is that Cisco is trying to rollout many elements piecemeal and packaging it as an “end to end” solution type announcement.  Is this a rip and replace or continuous improvement to the already changing landscape.  That is my fundamental question.

If the rumors are true about some sort of IPTV “consumer box” with new routing products launched in conjunction with select service provider partners, is it viable?

Other attempts for edge boxes have had trouble like Apple TV.  Apple TV has not been a success, partly due to the access bandwidth problems.  Even Netflix had some issues in getting their consumer offering to a box solution.

Is there high bandwidth that will appear out of “thin air”? Can Cisco leverage an already growing developer community who already are building on top of standards that are realizing great success with the current Internet and the Apple’s app store?

It appears that Cisco’s announcement is an attempt to take several products and solutions and bundle them into a “vision” for the marketplace that they can say that they can own it.

Cisco wants to be a consumer company in a big way and are opening up another battle front – the end-to-end service provider consumer market.  In other words Cisco hopes to position itself as a “one stop shop” for a service provider market.  What will Apple, Google, Juniper, Alcatel, Microsoft, Skype, Polycom, Tivo, and thousands of others companies say about this?

Conflict With Market Forces – Betting The Ranch

Does Cisco’s approach innovate the best-of-breed solutions and is Cisco aligning with the consumer market that prefers open and choice?  Is Cisco’s business strategy out of touch with the market?  Is it realistic?

Cisco biting off more than they can chew in creating lines of battle with Google, Apple, and now possibly Skype.  If this is the case then Cisco appears to be betting the ranch that they can own the Internet with a only a select number of partners.

Trying to land grab and competing on many fronts just doesn’t add up to me.  This is in dark contrast to all the good things happening in the market:  Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Microsoft, and zillions of applications being built by entrepreneurs.

We all want high-speed networks that do bazillion/Gbps, low cost cloud computing and storage, tons of on demand rich media, video telepresence, and smaller faster cheaper mobile devices.  I just don’t see it happening from one vendor.

I hope that Cisco will have more than what appears to be a “me too” set of individual announcements bundled as a message saying “Cisco is the future and cross the bridge with us to that future”.

[Editor’s Note: We shortened the headline, because frankly we broke the bank paying for all those vowels (and a couple readers suggested it might be a good idea). -mrh]

About John Furrier

Founder and CEO of SiliconAngle.com.