If there’s one thing corporate IT customers hate, it’s a vendor they can’t trust. The Fortune 500 make big bets on the products and vendors that run core parts of their businesses like their networks and don’t like sudden slips and swerves n product direction.
That’s why Cisco’s sudden announcement it is killing its Flip portable camcorder could send a chill – even just a little chill – into the corporate buyers. Sure, a consumer product always seemed an odd fit for an enterprise-focused company like Cisco and, yes, Flip sales were being hurt as more smart-phones get the high definition video that once made the Flip necessary.
But if an IT manager bought a Flip to records baby’s first steps, and then used it in the office to try his first marketing Webcast, didn’t it become just a little more strategic for him? Didn’t the Cisco name make him a little more comfortable buying it than a no-name competitor? And doesn’t its sudden death send make him wonder, just as bit, whether a Cisco product more important to his business – say, the Linksys wireless access point in a field office or Cisco’s umi telepresence line — might also suddenly get it in the neck someday?
Cisco, like a lot of other IT vendors, has made a lot of noise about the consumerization of IT – how technology first adopted by consumers, like smartphones and iPads, make their way into the enterprise and affect how people do their jobs. But consumerization goes both ways. Consumer will remember how a Cisco or a Dell or an HP treated them as a lowly consumer when they make the bigger purchases for their business. Cisco could have bought a lot of good will cheap by finding a buyer for Flip or at least laying out a support or product roadmap before axing it in the night.
And one other point: Cisco spent close to $600 million on Pure Digital Technology Inc., which developed the Flip, because Pure Digital did such an amazing job making a commoditized product (camcorders) much less expensive and much easier to use. That, of course, is what Apple just did with tablet computers, which are now giving it yet another wedge into the corporate IT market. Imagine you’re a former Pure Digital person now working for the big bad corporate parent that unceremoniously killed your baby. Would you take your next great idea to your boss in Cisco or shop it around outside?
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