Linksys Names Cisco VP As New Channel Chief

Nigel Williams, formerly vice president of worldwide service provider channels for Cisco, has assumed the newly created role of vice president of service provider and channel operations for Irvine, Calif.-based Linksys. The change took effect Aug. 1.

Allen Powell, Linksys&' director of channel sales, reports to Williams, who in turn reports to Janie Tsao, Linksys&' senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development. At Cisco, Williams was succeeded by Bob Gault, who previously was director of sales operations for Cisco&'s AT&T direct-sales team.

With approximately 80 percent of Linksys&' business currently stemming from the consumer market, Williams said his goal is to target “growth markets” in the business sector by building a stronger sales channel.

He also aims to nurture the vendor&'s consumer business by augmenting its retail channel with more service provider partnerships that target home users. What&'s more, Williams said he&'ll work to strike a balance between these efforts and those of Linksys&' San Jose, Calif.-based parent company, which is also looking down market into small and midsize businesses.

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Later this year, Linksys plans to unfurl new products for this segment that provide integrated voice, data and security applications, building on its leadership positions in wireless and small-business networking, Williams said.

The challenge for Cisco is to create a robust Linksys VoIP product line for smaller businesses without cannibalizing its own sales, said Jay Kirby, vice president of sales at Troubadour, a Houston-based solution provider, who expects to see Cisco reduce VoIP prices at the same time it pushes higher-end Linksys products to differentiate itself from competitors such as D-Link.

“The last thing Cisco wants to do is have customers buy Linksys instead of Cisco on IP telephony, but they&'re trying to find a way to hit the smaller market,” Kirby said.

Williams said there is plenty of room for both product lines, eschewing the “sub-20-user” limitations formerly placed on Linksys products. Now it&'s more about the type of customer rather than its size, he said.

“There are organizations in that small-business market that want enterprise-like solutions and [that] will look at the feature functionality of price and management and the support bundle associated with those, and they&'ll move to a Cisco solution, even in sub-20[-user companies],” Williams said. “But there&'s also a customer in that market that maybe is more price-sensitive, is really going to look to a different kind of support model, is looking at your plug-and-play, reliability, ease of use, and he&'s going to go more towards Linksys.”

Williams identified the ideal Linksys VAR as a small-business-focused regional player selling key systems or small PBX-type solutions today that “hopefully already has a relationship with a service provider, so that they are selling a service provider&'s transport along with the solution. Most of these guys, as you know, will probably be responsible for the network design, the security strategy, so it really becomes the true small systems integrator.”