Thursday, December 16, 2010

Product Installation & Set-up, The Cisco Way

Silicon Valley is have a consumer products renaissance.  Companies are actually making stuff that people want to buy - like Apple, HP, and Cisco.  (A nice change from the time when it seemed like everyone would exit hardware).  But sadly, the consumer experience is still not so great - especially when it's Cisco you're talking about.

I bought a new Cisco wireless camera to put in my kid's bedroom.  I wanted to check if they were in bed and asleep instead of playing with toys without having to poke my head in the room.  My mother was worried that now that both are no longer in cribs, we'd have potential fighting once the door closed.  Turns out there's no fighting going on at all.  In fact, they're as cute as can be with each other.  If my youngest starts crying, the oldest goes over to check on him and sometimes gives him a hug and a kiss.  

If only I could give that kind of love to Cisco, who nearly gave me an anuerysm trying to set up the camera.  A short summary of the faults:

  • Set-up software does not match the manual description
  • Set-up software is available for Mac and PC, but only on CD
  • Downloadable version only works on the PC
  • Camera sound only seems to work if you used the "Thick client" on the PC side
  • Web client shows video only, not sound
  • Set-up software only available as Wizard.  If you have any problems, you must start again from the beginning

I had to run through the software five times on two machines to get the camera working.  Now that it's working, it's ok, but not exactly an Apple-class experience.

The whole experience reminds me that Cisco's consumer product strategy seems to have gone badly wrong.  Linksys has failed really move beyond routers into audio and video in a successful way and Flip appears to have been purchased just before the entire video camera industry disappeared.  And remember the iPhone naming dispute with Apple?  Nope.  Neither do I.

Cisco's consumer product strategy seems lost.  What is the point of selling only commoditized routers and video cameras?  How are they really contributing to the surge in video usage by consumers and shaping the demand for increased broadband?

Buying Skype or one of these new video calling apps would have a bigger impact.  Or maybe Boxee or Roku.  All of those would have a bigger impact, except that they impinge upon the strategic imperatives (closed systems, copyright extremism) of their customers (big cable and big telecom).

Cisco's Focus is on B2B, not B2C.  Image from Cisco.

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