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Cisco announcement disappoints, and Apple is to blame

The promise of a major Cisco announcement fell flat. Why? Because Apple ruined it for everyone else.

By / March 9, 2010

The Cisco announcement let down many people. But it's not the company's fault. Blame expectations.

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Much ado led up to the major Cisco announcement that arrived Tuesday. Cisco, which designs and sells many of the machines that make the Web possible, dropped hints for weeks that Tuesday's unveiling would "forever change the Internet." Seems they oversold it.

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What was the Cisco announcement? A new router.

The next-gen box, sold to big-time Internet service providers, is an impressive step forward, if you're into this kind of thing. It can carry 12 times more online traffic than previous industrial routers, and do so at a speedier pace. These new CRS-3 routers "could in just a few minutes deliver all the movies ever made or allow everyone in China to make a video phone call at once."

Not bad, but what do you expect from the wizard behind the Internet's curtain? Apparently, several tech writers were hoping for more.

"Cisco may have overhyped the announcement just a tad," teased CNET's Marguerite Reardon. "I see it more as an incremental upgrade to Cisco's existing product, the CRS-1, which Cisco announced in 2004. IP routing is Cisco's bread and butter. It's not surprising that the company has developed yet another big router."

Before the Cisco announcement, the Wall Street Journal's bombastic blogger Kara Swisher let her hopes fly. "It had better be good," she wrote. "Like a jet pack from which you can communicate your Foursquare location ('I'm Mayor of the Clouds!'). Or perhaps a chip you can implant in your head that will give you live updates of every single Apple (AAPL) iPad rumor."

Of course, both of those were jokes. But that latter wish strikes at the heart of Cisco's problem. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has overinflated tech expectations.

Cisco's big event Tuesday wasn't aimed at the millions of tech-blog readers out there. It catered to investors and the trade press. On that front, the company succeeded: Cisco stock climbed to a 52-week high Monday and continued rising after the big reveal.

But when reporters quoted Cisco's promise of "a significant announcement that will forever change the Internet and its impact on consumers..." they hooked the wrong crowd. Apple and our live-blog culture have us thinking that press conferences are for us, the shoppers. And we, the consumers, want something to have and to hold – iPads or even Flip video cameras, which Cisco owns. The fact is that most people reading this will never notice when CRS-3s go online.

And that's OK. In a way, Cisco has made a name for itself by being anonymous to 98 percent of Web users. It's the plumber of the Internet – a thankless job, but one that we need to keep enjoying our iTunes stores and YouTube moments.

If you are Cisco's target audience, here's a video with more information on the CRS-3 routers.

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Are you excited by the Cisco announcement? Did you want something a little more shopper-friendly? Share your thoughts in the comments, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

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