Cisco's long and inglorious retreat from the consumer business may be about to reach another miserable milestone, after Bloomberg reported Linksys is up for sale.
Cisco scooped up Linksys back in 2003 and used the brand to offer consumer and small business products. Cisco has done reasonably well in the latter market, but the consumer market has been a mess for the networking titan, with its 2009 purchase of camera concern Pure Digital Technologies and its Flip video camera going sour in just two years. A consumer video conferencing offering also fared poorly, leading CEO John Chambers to decide the company had no business outside the world of business.
Despite that decision, Linksys has continued to operate, sometimes as 'Linksys by Cisco', but has not moved beyond its small business and consumer roots. Nor did Cisco try to position it as an off-brand competitor.
Rumours about Linksys' demise have circulated before, as once Cisco moved swiftly to sell off or kill the rest of its consumer offerings it seemed natural for Linksys to be next. Those rumours came to nothing, making it a little difficult to trust Bloomberg's report that Barclays has been engaged to find a buyer.
This time the rumour at least seems well-timed given that Cisco has just acquired Meraki, a company whose WiFi assets are rather more modern and therefore more likely to be attractive to businesses of all sizes.
Ditching Linksys before Meraki comes aboard makes sense as it will help Cisco to present a less-confusing portfolio of WiFi brands.
Losing Linksys almost certainly won't hurt the networking giant. Absent imminent updates to the 802.11 standard, consumers and small businesses alike have little reason to contemplate new WiFi router purchases. The devices also run for years, while many punters probably have no idea maintenance like firmware updates are even possible, never mind necessary. It's therefore hard to see much upside in continuing to own Linksys, especially now that Meraki is aboard.
Cisco has declined to comment on the Bloomberg report. ®
Blogger Brad Reese says Belkin is expected to acquire Linksys.