The new head of Linksys a division of global network Company Cisco claims he is committed to chasing down the home and SOHO market with the help of digital integrators.
Michael Pocock who recently joined Linksys from Polaroid said “I’ve been a big fan and very passionate about [the notion] that the home market had to be integrated, that there is an opportunity to take advantage of all the various converging products: voice over IP with multimedia, with networking needing to go into the mass market,” Pocock says. “I think Linksys is in a perfect position to take advantage of that. … When you look at what vendors would be positioned to pull all of those various pieces together and be able to penetrate not only the home market but also SMB, in my opinion, there wasn’t anybody better suited in the industry than Linksys.”
While Linksys has traditionally focused its sales of home products through retail stores, Pocock says the sophistication of new connected home solutions requires the help of skilled digital integrators. Pocock says one of his jobs at Linksys will be facilitating the interaction of integrators and retail chains to target the home.
“Whereas a lot of retailers want to reach [the home] market as well, they’re going to have to, in my opinion, partner with local VARs to be able to deliver the total solution,” Pocock says. “I think we’re going to have to facilitate an alliance or facilitate retailers hooking up with local VARs to be able to deliver the total solution. I think retailers are great in terms of providing product selection and some of the services, but to install an integrated solution for the home requires, I think, a little more expertise.”
Pocock started with Linksys on May 8, taking over for Linksys co-founders Victor and Janie Tsao. The husband and wife team, who previously shared the role Pocock has taken on, are moving into senior vice president roles within Cisco, where they will help the networking giant develop business opportunities in China.
With the changing of the guard, Pocock says his past experience with distributors, VARs and integrators will help Linksys continue its efforts to bulk up its home and SMB portfolio.
Pocock is probably best known to the integrator channel through his tenure at Compaq Computer, where he served as North American channel chief and later headed up Compaq’s worldwide commercial PC business. He most recently served as president and CEO of Polaroid, which he joined in 2003.
“We have to continue to make strategic investments because that market is so large and so untapped, and a lot of VARs I’ve spoken with just feel like nobody has really come to them and leveraged their skill sets, their expertise in delivering that solution,” Pocock says.
The investments Linksys will make will include expanding and improving its networked entertainment and communication devices for the home, Pocock says. On the one hand Linksys will be making the devices more appealing for integrators to install in the home, and at the same time easier for consumers to use.
“As the masses start buying the products, they’re so used to cool sexy designs that are available to them in other categories, and they’re going to expect more of the same,” Pocock says. “It’s one thing when you have a router that’s out of sight, out of mind. It’s another when you start to get into some of the set-top boxes, some of the DVD-type stuff where you’re integrating multiple functions into a single device. Those are more out in the open, so you have to meet the needs of the consumer. So I think you’ll start seeing more and more focus on our part in terms of the design of the product and the user interface because people want it simple and easy to use.”
relationship with its distributors. As it moves its focus more into integrator-led sales for the home, Pocock says deeper partnering with distributors will help it provide the resources and services that integrators need in the home.
“We have to become more important to some of the distribution partners because they are the ones that provide all of these elements to the VARs. So rather than go wider, I think we need to go deeper within the accounts that we have and a have a broader portfolio of products and services than we do today,” Pocock says. “Part of that is led by the leading-edge technology that we’re working on that will be coming out over the next 12 to 24 months, some of which you’re familiar with as part of the Linksys One [hosted VoIP offering].”
Linksys launched its Linksys One division and IP communications platform in November. The Linksys One strategy calls for integrators to sell Linksys hardware bundled with hosted VoIP services from carriers and other service providers in exchange for monthly commissions. Linksys has says a nationwide rollout of Linksys One is slated for the fall.
While some channel partners that were given a sneak peek at an early version of the Linksys One product line earlier this year says it fell short of expectations, Jerry Bailey, president and COO of network integrator Digitel, Atlanta, is excited about the solution. Digital will hosted VoIP services through Linksys One channel partners via its NeoNova Network Services division.
“You’ll see some activity starting in June or July where you’ll see Cisco and Linksys start marketing to VARs,” Bailey says.
Janie Tsao says that as she prepares to leave Linksys, she’s comfortable with the progress made in the Linksys One rollout.
“It’s a full solution, and when a full solution comes along, it naturally takes longer than just creating a box. We are working on a carrier-class product, so we have to go through the process of testing and getting the services ready,” she says. “We feel comfortable with the service partners that are signing up right now that we will be coming out and making additional announcements to our channel partners later in the year to let them know how they can sell the product.”