Cisco Systems Inc.'s love affair with the consumer market is finally over, with the sale of Linksys to Belkin Corp., announced Thursday. (See Cisco Unloads Linksys Unit.)
Cisco does have set-top boxes left, but that's a service-provider product line. And the company has vehemently defended set-tops against rumors of a possible sale, so I wouldn't expect any changes there. (See Cisco: 'We Love Set-Top Boxes'.)
Flip, umi, Linksys and the whole vision of Cisco becoming a driving force in the home network and the electronic spine of your future living-room -- that's all done now.
"In our opinion, Cisco has finally concluded that selling to consumers is not the same as selling to enterprises," writes analyst Simon Leopold of Raymond James Financial Inc. in a note published Friday morning.
That's certainly true. And yet, I was willing to believe in Cisco invading the living room. I didn't think they'd necessarily win -- what I mean is that I could buy into the logic that said Cisco needed to take a shot at it.
That's partly because every big company seemed to be playing up its importance to the future home network. Chips, software, boxes -- they all saw a chance to take a dominant position in a huge future market.
Meanwhile, Cisco was still considering itself a hot-growth company, and it needed a wide-open area for expansion. The living room was a market on the verge of transition -- and Cisco just loves to talk about how it nails industry transitions.
But a lot of the things Cisco wanted to push into our lives -- high-definition video, or continual access to workplace collaboration (think Cius) -- got absorbed into a stronger force: smartphones and tablets. Flip became superfluous. So did Cius, which isn't a consumer device but fell prey to the same trend.
Even before that, I struggled to understand the logic behind the Flip. And umi, the home telepresence system, was an overshot -- an overpriced product engineered for an unnecessarily high level of video quality. (I do believe we'll all learn to live with low-quality video for casual uses, just as we put up with the lousy audio on cellphones.)
Like a lot of romantic notions, the home network lost its glow as the day-to-day reality crept in. Cisco being in consumer markets felt like more and more of a mistake.
Linksys's arrival predated all that, of course, but without the other pieces, and without a grand home-invasion scheme behind it, Linksys feels irrelevant. Something like Meraki -- enterprise-minded, software-focused -- seems more appropriate. More like Cisco acting its age, I suppose.