CEO John Chambers's now-famous company-wide memo, made public last Tuesday, predicted "bold steps" and "tough decisions" in trying to regain credibility with investors. He laid out five major technology areas that would remain the core of Cisco, and consumer products wasn't one of them.
There are plenty of ways to slice up Cisco, but the consumer business is on top of most hit lists.
Bloomberg was quick to focus on the consumer angle on Thursday, quoting analyst Sean Conner of Nuveen Asset Management as saying consumer is a "crappy business."
Multiple analysts -- Nick Lippis of Lippis Enterprises , Jon Oltsik of Enterprise Systems and Zeus Kerravala of Yankee Group Research Inc. -- told Network World the same thing, in blunt but more formal terms, repeating the common argument that consumer and entertainment products are too far removed from Cisco's switch and router franchises.
The Flip camera line particularly seems to get people's goat -- and it's been questioned ever since Cisco acquired Pure Digital two years ago.
"Sell the Flip video business," Editor-in-Chief Scott Raynovich writes on the new Investor Uprising site. "If Cisco sold this adjacent, non-essential business, I think the stock price would instantly pop 10 percent." [Disclosure: Raynovich used to be our boss here a Light Reading, and Investor Uprising, like Light Reading, is owned by United Business Media Ltd. (UBM) (London: UBM.L).]
Why hasn't the consumer business clicked? Lippis posted one idea on Twitter: No one thinks "architecture" at Best Buy. His post points to a shopping guide published last week in The New York Times, where the tips focus on things like Wi-Fi speed, not network-wide video implications. Cisco might have a good role for consumer products in its Videoscape architecture, but that's not going to help consumer sales or margins.
As for how Cisco might separate the consumer business, analyst Ehud Gelblum of Morgan Stanley points to the EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) spinoff of VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW). They're separate companies, but EMC still holds about 80 percent of VMware's stock.
Just cutting the consumer business -- which is about 10 percent of Cisco's sales -- won't be enough. Chambers appeared at a Wells Fargo conference Thursday, where ComputerWorld quoted him as saying Cisco needs to cut expenses by half.
Cisco is a big target, so it's going to have to endure this kind of speculation for a while. Here's what we've contributed to the hubbub so far.
- Investor Uprising at Cisco? (podcast)
- Cisco Starts Spring Cleaning
- Cisco Signals Major Restructuring
- Consumers Clobber Cisco
- Is Cisco Spread Too Thinly?
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading