Cisco CEO on video technology: 'It's an art'

John Chambers uses the personal touch with his video promotions

With a smile and a few handshakes for reporters, Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers launched into a 45 minute presentation at the CES show on Wednesday describing the future of video over networks.

Cisco has purchased several companies in recent years to further its video initiative, including Tandberg more recently and Pure Digital, the maker of the handheld Flip video camera .

But the biggest gun in Cisco's arsenal for success in sales of devices to bring all types of personal video to homes and businesses could well be the magnetic Chambers himself.

He has become a video evangelist for the company that once was known as the networking plumber to enterprises and service providers.

"Who would have thought a decade ago that Cisco would be here talking about consumer products and video?" Chambers asked with a chuckle. "It is video that changes everything."

For two years at least Chambers has been beating the video drum, talking about how annual growth in video traffic over networks will be 200 per cent or more.

But in recent months he has become decidedly more personal in his appeals to the value of video, noting that consumers relate to video of family and friends because of the "experience, and not the technology."

At the Wednesday presentation, Chambers described new video in-home telepresence technology that will be trialed in the U.S. this spring, with Verizon Communications as an early partner. Cisco will provide set-top boxes and cameras, but consumers will be able to use their existing HDTVs, he noted.

In his talk, Chambers focused heavily on the intimate nature of video technology, using examples from his own family. On a screen, he showed short video clips he took with a Flip camera of his family boat excursion near Hawaii, showing whales surfacing in the ocean his wife racing down a zip line in a jungle in Costa Rica.

Chambers said his wife, Elaine, took him on the Costa Rica trip for his 60th birthday, and later, he talked in a live telepresence session using a living room HDTV and other equipment. "She's been my partner for 40 years," Chambers gushed as his wife sat on a sofa, presumably from their home in California.

As he signed off, he remarked about how he liked her dress and added, "Nice legs," to which his wife said, "That's enough." It didn't seem like a rehearsed exchange, and Chambers doesn't ever seem to stop himself from using such personal experiences to make a point.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)

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