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商业 - 科技

思科转型曙光初现

Kevin Kelleher 2011年11月17日

思科公司一直在艰难地寻找自己的第二春。现在,由于主要竞争对手正自顾不暇,思科第一次依稀看到了成功转型的希望。

    但这些指标无法让人回想起思科公司在上世纪90年代末期风华正茂时的光辉岁月。它们描绘的是,一个已经步入中年的科技巨人面临反复无常的全球经济,终于迈出了成功转型的第一步。思科这样的科技巨人要实现华丽转身绝非易事。IBM做到了这一点,但它的转型方式是,脱离硬件制造业,进入服务和咨询领域。而这并非网络设备制造商思科可选择的途径。源自服务(主要是客户支持)的收入仅占思科公司总收入的五分之一。

    此外,思科公司还没有完全从近几年来的几项代价不菲的失误中恢复过来。当初,路由器和交换机逐渐成为低成本商品,思科随后进入了新的市场:视讯会议系统、机顶盒和翻转摄像机。但事实证明,有些举措是不明智的。对于惠普公司和其他竞争者向其核心市场发动的攻势,思科的反应也很迟缓,并没有严阵以待。

    这种情况在今年有所改观。思科卖掉了机顶盒业务,终止了翻转摄像机的生产,并开始启动裁员1万人的计划。对其竞争对手,它变得强硬起来——思科公司在一个讽刺性网站上发布了一个视频,嘲讽瞻博网络公司的产品延时问题。销售团队的薪酬第一次跟其对毛利润的贡献挂上钩。“我们将更为主动地参与竞争,采用更强硬的手段来应对竞争对手,不管这种挑战是来自瞻博网络、惠普、华为(Huawei),还是亚美亚公司(Avaya)。我现在觉得我们过去的做法有点太君子了,”钱伯斯在财报电话会议上如是说。

    与此同时,在一些新进入的领域,思科的业绩也出现了增长。面向互联网服务供应商的视频系统销售收入增长了13%,源自视频会议和企业社交网络等协作式服务的收入增长了12%,数据处理中心的业绩更是飙涨了107%。

    2月份,思科公司发布了又一份令市场失望的财季报告。之后,钱伯斯曾对华尔街表示,扭转公司财务表现的各项措施已准备就绪。许多分析师对此嗤之以鼻,同时股价也出现了下跌。但现在回想起来,钱伯斯的这番表态或许是认真的。上周,三位分析师上调了对思科公司的评级,其他分析师则提高了该公司的预测股价水平。

    然而,市场并未完全打消顾虑。巴克莱银行(Barclays)和美林证券(Merrill Lynch)的分析师称,现在就宣布思科公司将确凿无疑地实现转型,依然为时尚早。惠普公司和瞻博网络正忙于解决自身的问题,无瑕应对思科的反击。一旦它们解决了自身问题,它们就有可能在交换机和路由器市场上发动新一轮的价格战。

    或许吧,但思科公司依然拥有一项优势——在这些公司中,它率先整顿了内部事务。思科今年已经完成了几个高难动作,似乎正在认真地从事维系转型所必须完成的事情。这可能并非思科公司为自己设想的第二春,但这些举措或许足以让投资者睡个安稳觉。

    译者:任文科

    None of these metrics recall the glory days of Cisco's youth in the late-1990s. But they paint a portrait of a middle-aged tech giant in the early stages of a successful turnaround amid a skittish global economy. Turning around a tech giant like Cisco is no mean feat. IBM pulled it off, but it did so by pushing from hardware into services and consulting. That's not an option for a networking equipment maker like Cisco. Only a fifth of its revenue comes from services, largely customer support.

    Cisco is also recovering from a couple of costly missteps it made in recent years. As routers and switches became low-cost commodities, Cisco moved into new markets: teleconferences, set-top boxes, the Flip camcorder. But some moves proved ill-advised. The company was also slow to take seriously the competition that HP and others were presenting to its core market.

    That changed this year. Cisco sold off set-top box operations, killed the Flip camera and began laying off as many as 10,000 workers. It began getting tough with its competitors, including a snarky web site with videos poking Juniper for its product delays. For the first time, sales teams were paid according to their contributions to gross profit. "We are more aggressive on the competition, we are going to be tough on our competitors, whether they are Juniper or HP and Huawei and Avaya, and it's something that I think, we were a little bit to general on in the past," Chambers said in the earnings conference call.

    Meanwhile, Cisco is seeing growth in newer areas. Revenue grew 13% from video systems for ISPs, 12% from collaboration services like video conferencing and enterprise social networks and 107% from the data center division.

    In February, after Cisco posted yet another disappointing quarter, Chambers told the street that the pieces were in place to turn the company's financial performance around. Many analysts scoffed, and the stock price sank. But in retrospect, Chambers may have been right. Three analysts upgraded their ratings on Cisco last week, and others lifted their price targets.

    Still, some concerns remain. Analysts at Barclays and Merrill Lynch said it was too early to declare Cisco's turnaround a sure thing. HP and Juniper are distracted with their own problems, and once those are sorted out they could wage another price war in switches and routers.

    That may be, but Cisco still has an advantage of being the first of these companies to get its house in order. It's made several difficult moves this year and seems serious about doing what is necessary to keep the turnaround going. That might not be the second act Cisco imagined for itself, but it may just be compelling enough to keep investors in their seats.

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