Fridges that talk, watches that listen and thermostats that learn your secret domestic habits: these are some of the most visible examples of the so-called “internet of things” (or “IoT” for aficionados).

Cisco, the global computing hardware group, is a big supporter of IoT. It announced yesterday that it was increasing its investment in early-stage companies in the sector to $250m over two to three years, up from the $100m it announced in January. It also unveiled three minority investments: in the enterprise start-up accelerator Alchemist Accelerator, as well two IoT software start-ups, Ayla Networks and EvrythngRead more

A $500bn game of chicken. That’s what it feels like as a handful of the biggest US technology companies posture over what they plan to do with their “trapped” overseas cash holdings. But like all games of chicken, the end must come eventually – and it’s hard to see that this is one the tech companies will win.

John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco Systems, struck the most provocative pose in an interview with the FT last week. After four fruitless years of arguing in Washington for a tax holiday for repatriating his foreign cash to be invested in the US, he says he’s had enough and is going to spend it somewhere else instead.

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Cisco Systems, under investor pressure from disappointing profits and a scatter-shot approach to new markets, on Thursday said it would fix the latter in hopes of improving the former. Read more

While around 75 per cent of US homes have broadband, only 39 per cent have a Wi-Fi router that makes their connection usable by wireless devices around the house,according to the IDC research firm. That represents a market opportunity for Cisco as consumers bring home more wireless products like the iPad and expect to be able to access the internet away from their hard-wired PC. Hence, its new range of Linksys routers launched on Tuesday, all of them using the latest “N” standard, which has penetrated only 11 per cent of homes to date. Read more

From around the web:

  • Yahoo has unveiled Livestand, a digital newsstand that personalises content to reader’s interests.
  • The Wall St. Journal reports that both Facebook and Google have had talks with Twitter about acquiring the micro-blogging service.

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Wireless technologies have always seemed a black art to me. From Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to 3G, mysterious signal dropouts and connection failures seem to occur at regular intervals. So finding the perfect home Wi-Fi router has been like a search for the Holy Grail, and it hasn’t exactly ended with Cisco’s latest product – the Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual Band N Router. Read more

Cisco launched ūmi on Wednesday, a video conferencing system for the living room that is big in bulk, price and bandwidth requirements.

It may appeal to some as a premium single-function product, but it faces stiff competition from smaller, far cheaper multi-function video conferencing rivals. Read more

Video conferencing may finally be set to go mainstream with Logitech and Cisco both set to unveil HD cameras linked to internet-connected living room TV sets next Wednesday.

With Skype HD cameras already being integrated with TVs and Microsoft due to offer video conferencing in its Kinect motion controller accessory in November, TV viewers will be getting used to being watched themselves. Read more

The latest Personal Technology column in the FT’s Business Life section looks at the new version of the Flip camcorder:

“The success of the Flip style of camcorder has encouraged rivals such as Kodak, Samsung and Sanyo to launch similar devices, but the Slide­HD is the first low-cost camcorder to feature such a large HD widescreen.”

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Setting up a Wi-Fi network in the home appears to be beyond many consumers, with retailers sometimes seeing returns of upwards of 20-25 per cent on wireless routers.

Enter the Cisco Valet – a simplified product that doesn’t even say it’s a router on the box – aimed at the two-thirds of US homes still without wireless. Read more

If your iPhone is still sluggish a few years from now, don’t blame Cisco Systems.

The top networking equipment maker on Tuesday announced a new high-end router for telecom companies that it said could handle three times the internet traffic of its current model at the same $90,000 base price.

Put a few of them together–ok, 72–and you could handle a video call from every man, woman and child in China. Read more

Tandberg video conferencingCisco’s $3bn bid for Tandberg has made everyone sit up and take notice of video conferencing. It is only little over a week since HP launched its new SkyRoom video conferencing product for desktop computers. HP’s Halo already competes with Cisco at the high end of the telepresence market, with elaborate camera and meeting room systems which come close to simulating real-life meetings. Now, with the Tandberg acquisition and SkyRoom, both companies are looking to serve all segments of the market from high end to mass market. Microsoft has also developed teleconferencing services similar to Cisco and HP. Read more

HP today came up with a videoconferencing product that could work out 1,000 times cheaper than the telepresence mega-productions itself and Cisco have been pushing.

Cisco’s TelePresence or HP’s Halo can cost more than $300,000 for a boardroom suite setup, but HP’s  SkyRoom could link two boardrooms for less than $300. Read more

It is perhaps with good reason that Larry Ellison does not speak in public that often. Whenever he does, the famously bombastic Oracle chief executive seems certain to trash his rivals, make bold predictions about Oracle’s future, and wander off topic.

Last night at a meeting of the Churchill Club, Mr Ellison said that Sun Microsystems was losing $100m a month as European regulators scrutinise Oracle’s proposed takeover of the struggling hardware maker.

On the economy, Mr Ellison said it would be at least another five years before the US begins to recover. He said it would not be a V shaped recovery with a sharp rebound, or a W shaped recovery with a double dip, or a U shaped recovery with a pause before an uptick, but an L shaped recovery — “down and not coming back up.” Read more

  • Google’s unveiling of the new Chrome OS at least a year before consumers will actually be able to buy it brought cries of “vapourware!” from critics.  Yet the prospect of a Google PC operating system to rival Windows created an even bigger splash than the arrival of the Chrome browser last year. Fake Steve had the last laugh - while also successfully puncturing some of the hype that has already built up around the promised software.
  • With both public and private websites in the US and South Korea coming under assault in an unusually powerful cyber-attack, it was not surprising that suspicion fell on North Korea. Yet if this follows the pattern of most other attacks, the true source will never be identified.

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If past experience is anything to go by, it may be time to short Cisco Systems.

Being admitted to the Dow Jones Industrial Average is the ultimate mark of corporate respectability – and it has added 5 per cent to Cisco’s shares today – but the history of techs in the Dow has not been a cheerful one.

For many years the brain trust at the DJIA turned a cold shoulder to tech. Only IBM was admitted to the club – and even Big Blue only made it through the door after it had been around for close to 70 years. Read more

  • Amazon launched the Kindle DX, expanding its dominance in the e-reader market while offering a more attractive platform for publishers of textbooks and newspapers. The Kindle DX received complimentary reviews from many critics, who appreciated its large display and enhanced capabilities. Others however, were unconvinced that the DX was a big breakthrough.
  • Microsoft has stirred up fresh complaints of anti-competitive behaviour with its release this week of a late-stage trial version of the next Windows PC operating system. The complaints, from some of the leading makers of web browsers, look set to intensify the software company’s regulatory headaches just as it is seeking to head off swingeing anti-trust action from the European Commission over a related issue.

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The Flip video camera became a best-seller in the US last Christmas as a cheap, dead simple device for capturing video and uploading it to a computer or the web.

Its maker Pure Digital was also capturing the market for a moment in time and has sold more than 2m units to date.

But Pure Digital’s sale today to Cisco may also be a perfectly timed exit for its VC backers – much bigger competitors are bearing down on the startup, looking to copy its success. Read more

The tech headlines this week have certainly been eye-catching.

Cisco, which in this downturn is still making a 60 per cent gross profit margin and operating profits of more than 20 per cent of revenues, is risking upsetting long-time allies like HP to get into servers – a business in rapid retreat where profits have collapsed.

Now comes news that IBM is in advanced talks to buy Sun, reversing its steady march away from the hardware business into more consistent and profitable software and services. This amounts to a big change in course: after focussing on small software acquisitions, Big Blue looks like it’s about to become a consolidator in Unix servers.

What is going on here? Read more

  • Cisco‘s open secret is a secret no more. After weeks of rumours speculating as much, the networking equipment powerhouse is entering the server market, posing a potential threat to IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sun. Servers are lower-margin products, but analysts say Cisco will be able to charge more by offering bundled products.
  • Apple is unveiling new iPhone software on Tuesday. Watchers don’t expect multimedia text messaging, but other desired features, including copy and pasting and integrated contact books, seem likely. Don’t expect an appearance from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who remains on medical leave, or the debut of Apple’s rumoured 10-inch touchscreen tablet.

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