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Cisco's Chambers: A retrospective

Jim Duffy | May 7, 2015
You don't become one of the most admired and successful CEOs in Silicon Valley and in all of business by doing many things wrong.

Apple beat Cisco's Flip to cloud-based videocam hosting and storage. Linksys hung around for much longer but was ultimately sold off as Cisco honed in on enterprise IT. Cisco's Eos media and entertainment, and umi consumer telepresence efforts were also killed off.

And in its bread-and-butter router business, Juniper Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei took considerable share from Cisco and continue to challenge the leader.

These and other events forced Cisco to look inward and narrow its focus and workforce lest it end up like its compromised peers.

"Not everything is going to work out," says Forrester's O'Donnell. "Cisco is now facing a big challenge going forward (with initiatives like Internet of Everything and digitization of companies, cities and countries), but it will be faced by Robbins instead of Chambers."

In addition to his success, it might be hard for Robbins to match Chambers' panache. During Chambers tenure, he rubbed elbows with several world leaders and other dignitaries during a period when several major world events occurred.

Chambers made Cisco and its business a global brand. He evangelized the Internet -- and Cisco's leading infrastructure presence -- as a global business and consumer communications backbone. He touted the benefits of IP- and Internet-enabling utilities, municipal and governmental infrastructures, and manufacturing and oil and gas industries.

Chambers helped the Internet, IP -- and Cisco -- change the world.

"I'm most proud of our leadership team and in changing the world," he said this week during a conference call introducing Robbins as his successor. "We played a huge role in how the Internet has evolved and changed peoples' lives."


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