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

John Chambers uses the personal touch with his video promotions

Later when describing the value of using home telepresence for monitoring a person's health, with the ability for a patient at home to talk in videoconference with a doctor, Chambers interrupted: "Both my parents were doctors and my Dad delivered 5,000 babies. He said when the expecting mothers would call about being ready to go to the hospital; it was the calm ones he was most worried about. Imagine being to talk in video about that."

Videoconferencing in homes might take many years to catch on, especially in locations where the bandwidth is limited. But Chambers is wrestling instead with a potentially bigger issue than bandwidth, that being customer interest.

Chambers is a consummate salesman of course, but seems to have taken to video as a valuable personal medium like no other CEO in technology. In addition to his comments and examples Wednesday that were peppered with his own life experiences, he has been conducting monthly video blogs for the 67,000 Cisco employees, sometimes using a Flip camera on a tripod on his desk in his small office, a spokesman said.

When the Cisco public relations team first asked Chambers to do a written blog, he said, "No way," the spokesman said, noting that Chambers is dyslexic and wanted to avoid the typing and related tasks. But when the handheld Flip video became available and other video formats started being used, Chambers blossomed, he added.

Last summer at Cisco's Partner Summit in Boston, Chambers pulled out a Flip videocamera at a press conference and started recording the faces of the reporters at a U-shaped table who were asking questions. The effort seemed awkward and surprising to some who attended, probably not so much because of the technology involved, but because a successful CEO was the affable cameraman.

But Chambers also recognizes that he has to feel comfortable with the technology if he is going to ask consumers to also feel comfortable.

As for whether his personal videos are any good, Chambers seemed to answer that Wednesday. When he described video technology and integrating the use of it with families and business associates, Chambers said the process is more complex and personal than many people imagine.

"It's an art," he said. It's an art that is clearly changing Cisco.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smart phones and other handhelds and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter @matthamblen , send e-mail at or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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