Cisco touts Connected Home channel play

By Jeff Jedras, IT business.ca |  Channel, Cisco, Connected Home

Cisco Systems unveiled a number of new home audio and network attached storage products as part of its connected home strategy at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and a channel executive says the new offerings will mean new opportunities for the channel and a tweaking of the company's distribution model.

The new offerings include Cisco Eos, a software platform that includes analytics and site management tools for digital content providers, such as music labels, to deliver content to consumers across a variety of mediums and devices.

On the product side, the Linksys by Cisco Media Hub is a storage appliance optimized for media content that can also search for media across other devices on the network, providing one interface into all their media content. A number of wireless home audio devices were also launched that, leveraging your existing home audio system and a Wireless N router, allow the wireless streaming if audio across the home.

Bob Gregerson, vice-president of North America Sales with Cisco, says with its Linksys brand the company has long played in the home market, but the CES announcements move the strategy to the next level.

"I think what you're seeing from the company for the first time is the end to end solution view, from the consumer to the home," said Gregerson.

There will definitely be a retail play for the new offerings, says Gregerson, although it will take some time to get the model right. Currently in the consumer area, Linksys by Cisco has an open distribution model, working in Canada with Ingram Micro, Tech Data, ASI and D&H .

"Our core products have been open distribution but we want more specialty now; you can't just put these products on a shelf," said Gregerson. "They touch audio, storage networking and PCs and you need to have the ability to show that vision to a consumer, whether it be at retail or in the VAR community."

Carl Glick, channel program account manager with Cisco, added they're working with their distributor partners to put the right partner support programs in place.

"There are some folks with specialty in home theatre and some in the digital integrator reseller community," said Glick. "We're working on an approach to market that will be through our existing distribution partners."

In addition to the retail market, Gregerson says there will definitely be a strong channel partner play, and he's predicting the new offerings will see Cisco serving an expanded reseller channel, particularly in the pro-av and digital home integrator space.

The latter is a market that has been slow to take-off, but Gregerson says Cisco is changing the dynamic by taking a complete solution-based approach, rather than focusing on point products as other vendors have in the past.

"The utility, frankly, hasn't been there in the past," said Gregerson. "I think consumers will really get more of the wow factor."

To support partners in the consumer space, Cisco has launched the Cisco Consumer Channel Network , a subset of the Cisco partner program that will provide resources, tools, training and support for resellers focusing on the consumer space and the Linksys by Cisco connected home offerings.

"Our partners are asking for the training, sales and marketing tools to enhance their business for their home based office clients, high tech home customers and very small business owners with about five employees," said Gregerson. "The Cisco Consumer Channel Network is in its first phase and we'll be bringing additional features and offerings over the coming year."

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