How Can Cisco Compete in the New Digital Living Room?

The new Apple TV may have been somewhat ho-hum compared to expectations, but the $99 price point and Apple logo should entice a few million buyers. Google, meanwhile, has plans to position itself as a connected TV platform, complete with advertising hooks and movie download offerings. However, as I write in a new post at GigaOM Pro, another tech giant seems to be missing from the connected TV conversation: Cisco.

The future of the living room will be determined in large part by leadership in software, something Cisco has always been challenged by. The company’s traditional customers in this market are cable MSOs, a stubborn bunch who are determined to craft their own software solutions, but, in reality, have been flailing in terms of creating a true vision for next-generation interactive services for the TV market.

What Cisco needs to do is carefully balance its legacy customer sets while creating innovative new service platforms that harness the power of a new generation of software developers. This requires investing in software beyond simple UI and consumer experience (competencies acquired through the purchase of Pure Digital/Flip), and instead, taking a platform-centric approach that would conceivably unleash a set of creative forces beyond Cisco’s own in-house developers.

This could mean acquiring Skype, which has endeavored to push into the living room through its SkypeKit offering. A move like that would give Cisco a low-end offering to accompany its high-end telepresence dreams. Or, the company could pursue a smaller bet like Boxee. Either way, developers would appreciate a large incumbent provider with strong carrier relationships creating a platform on which to create new services and applications.

The recent acquisition of ExtendMedia is a step in the right direction for Cisco, since it gives them an OTT delivery management system and moves beyond the closed cable architecture, but that’s only a first step. By going big into software and ultimately marrying the results to both carrier hardware and retail offerings, Cisco could provide a law-abiding counterbalance to the Wild-West entrants like Google and Apple looking to take over the town.

Read the full post here.

Image Source: Flickr user dailyinvention