Although Sandy Howe may not be new to Arris, she is taking on a new job as senior vice president in charge of marketing and communications and a new responsibility as the company's retail maven.
Her new role adds to her existing responsibilities around market development. Howe says she will continue "to work extremely closely with the CTO team" at Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), as well as with strategy groups to develop business case scenarios for emerging cable technologies.
In the near term, Howe lists three main priorities in her new role -- expand the company's global brand, continue working with cable customers on innovation throughout the IP transition, and focus on industry growth in the retail sector. With Arris already selling some cable modem models in stores, Howe noted, "I believe the trending that we're seeing in the industry, we're going to see more products continue to move to retail."
If Howe's first two priorities are fairly self-evident, the third is a bit of an outlier. Even though cable companies have recently made more of an effort to port their video services to consumer electronics devices, the cable and CE industries still operate quite separately from each other.
In particular, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has shown a reluctance to relinquish control over the consumer hardware experience to third parties. Even while making its video services available on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iPads and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Xbox, Comcast has invested heavily in its own high-powered media gateways for its Xfinity X1 IP video service. (See Set-Top Boxes: 'I'm Not Dead Yet!')
Meanwhile, cable hardware vendors have a dubious track record in retail channel sales. For example, Arris bought Digeo's Moxi assets in 2009, but then closed out the Digeo retail product line in 2012. The Motorola Home business, which is now part of Arris, attempted to sell everything from TV sets to MP3 players to broadband-based video phones around the middle of the last decade, but gave up when it couldn't gain much market traction.
Even Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which has always harbored grand retail ambitions, has had to abandon several CE investments, including the once-popular Flip video camera.
Howe clearly thinks the retail push will be different this time around. She even hinted there could be some interesting news from Arris at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. So stay tuned.
Update: Arris would like to clarify that its retail focus is solely on cable modems right now.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable