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Cisco Has Big Plans For Creating 'Human Networks'

Voice, data, and video coupled with mobility and simplicity for users is expected to take off in the next two to three years, Cisco president John Chambers said in his CES keynote Tuesday.

Voice, data, and video coupled with mobility and simplicity for users is expected to take off in the next two to three years, said John Chambers, Cisco's president and CEO, during his keynote address at the CES show in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Like many of its ambitious projects, Cisco plans to lead the industry here, too.

"Now that broadband is finally taking off in this country, we expect convergence of all forms of human expression," Chambers said. In the near future, applications will be able to work on any devices over any network, allowing people to have content follow them wherever they go. That's Cisco's vision for creating "human networks"--the next wave of the Internet and social networking.

To prove his point, Chambers demoed several converged services on stage during his keynote that are not available today in the U.S. but will be about three years from now. One involved a person listening to a music file on their PC and continuing the experience on their cell phone as they walk out of the house. Another one showed how a person could watch a baseball game on a TV screen and start an instant messaging session or a video call with a friend to share the latest scores simultaneously on the same screen. Using a third service, a person was able to publish family photos on a PC and have all the devices registered on the home network start displaying the pictures in his library.

As intelligence moves into the network, it will become a form for delivering all types of content, said Chambers, including the content shown in his demo. "There are so many opportunities that we can't even imagine until we make this experience simpler and more open for the consumer," he said.

The technology is expected to make its way into the enterprise as well, just like cell phones and text messaging first became popular among consumers and were adopted by businesses as productivity tools.

Chambers said Cisco has been laying the groundwork to bring its vision to life through acquisitions, partnerships, and new products. To date, the company has had a total of 115 acquisitions, partnered with more than 34,000 companies, and put aside $4 billion a year for research and development. Additionally, Cisco has shipped about 81 million consumer devices. "We have a very powerful army. I'm optimistic about our leadership in the category," Chambers said.

But Cisco has several challenges to overcome first. It has to find a way to make the experience truly simple for users, get consumers interested and willing to buy into the concept of human networking through major marketing efforts, and get service providers--who tend to have a tight grip on what type of content is available on mobile devices and the devices themselves--on board. "We're entering a greenfield environment in the consumer home space," said Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco's chief development officer, "and it's going to be a bit chaotic at first."

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