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Not your normal CES wrap up: Beyond the devices

By now, I have seen about a dozen CES wrap ups, the first of which, ironically, came after just the first day.  Ultrabooks, lack of iPad killer, and the iPhone5 rumor mill seemed to dominate the discussion.  My experience after the last week in Las Vegas was “beyond the devices” and admittedly beyond the hype.  Over four days, Cisco held nearly 500 customer, press and analyst meetings, and after very extensive research (read:  polling a few of my teammates in the ever lengthy elevator lines), here is my top takeaways from CES 2012:

  • Show:  CES is now the single largest service provider show in North America.  There are a few others, but in terms of customer engagement, this is the biggest.  From Europe to Asia, South America and Australia, an incredible array of SPs are there.  Forget the show’s name – anyone in the SP industry could benefit from this week in Las Vegas (even if they are so woefully lacking in humidity levels in their arid desert location that you can feel your contact lenses shrivel up in your eyes….)
  • Devices:  It’s about the network.  Admittedly, I have a biased view based on my  meetings and allegiance to the company that started the IP era, but as much as I love devices, gadgets and pretty much anything with an on-off switch, these days, those can’t live up to their potential without the network.  Unlike CES shows before me, I wasn’t asked by people in the elevator, taxi or food lines “what’s Cisco doing at CES?”  Rather, they were asking Cisco such questions as “How can you help me manage the multiple devices coming on my network” or “what do you have coming up that will help me keep ahead of ever rising bandwidth demand?”
  • TechnologyCloud.  People have been talking about cloud for years – even if they can’t agree on what they mean by the word.  However, this year, cloud hit the mainstream.  It was hard to go by a booth or keynote without hearing cloud mentioned again and again.
  • Companies:  The importance of an ecosystem, aka it takes a village.  The discussion of partners in how innovations are able to be realized was rampant.  No one was putting on airs about “going it alone” on a particular offering but rather was highlighting their extended team strength in making it happen.  In fact, in meetings with Verizon, where they had some crazy cool demos, we had a hard time finding some areas where we weren’t working together.  From their wireless business, where they have the largest deployment of our CRS routers in the world to their Fios offering where they have Cisco from their core of their network all the way to set top boxes in consumers’ homes, to their ever-expanding cloud services, their broadband, and their business offerings, Cisco is pleased to be able to work with such an innovative company in such an extensive and trusted way.
  • Content:  While it was certainly covered this year, it seemed to me to take a definitive backseat to the novelty of devices this year which captured a great deal of attention on new interfaces and ways to engage the network.  (On a personal note, one content area I was particularly disappointed in not seeing was dedicated applications and CES coverage of this year was the annual “Golden Snowball” competition in which New York cities vie for having the most snowfall.  Jim, our PR team lead, gave me a sneak peek into this fervid battle, and now I am hooked, likely being the only Austinite who is worried about whether Syracuse has a chance for victory again after its super slow start….  )
  • People:  Lastly, in a fast paced, global business, we interact with a great number of people each and every week, often losing sight of geography or time zones.  While this virtual interaction is good for business, it is nice, as this past week in Las Vegas proved again, to every once in a while see people face to face and just to shake their hand.  It helps to build tighter relationships and is a good reminder that at its very essence, networking is about people.

Thanks to all who took time out of their hectic schedules at CES to visit us at Cisco, and thanks, as always, to all of you for following us on SP360.

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