Linksys Reboots SMB Offerings Following Belkin Purchase

Linksys Business is back after languishing for years in the IT wilderness.

Belkin has invested heavily in Linksys product development in the SMB market since purchasing it from Cisco in March 2013, said Wayne Newton, director of Belkin's business division.

"When you talk with people inside the industry, everybody has a story with Linksys," Newton told CRN during the recently ended XChange 2014 conference in San Antonio. "Our goal is to bring it back to its prominence."

[Related: Belkin Integrates Linksys Products, Partners Into New Partner Program]

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Newton said Cisco underplayed the Linksys brand and mistakenly viewed it primarily as a consumer product, resulting in erosion to the brand. Yet Linksys still has a clear brand definition and is recognized and preferred by businesses, Newton said.

Belkin, for this reason, rolled out Linksys-branded VPN routers, PoE+ switches, IP surveillance and wireless AP products. The hardware features, Newton said, are enriched with the latest technology and are aimed at positioning the brand at the top of the food chain.

"We're doing a better job of being Linksys than Linksys themselves was," said Newton, who came over with Linksys in the acquisition.

Belkin and Linksys each had some 5,000 partners at the time of the acquisition, Newton said.

The company launched a new PartnerAdvantage program at the end of April, which offers expanded market development funds, reward points for sales goals, pre- and post-sales support and onsite training.

Some 2,000 solution providers have been admitted into the PartnerAdvantage program, Newton said, most of whom were existing partners of Belkin or Linksys. About a quarter of Belkin's overall sales are to businesses, he said.

Belkin and Linksys have combined their engineering teams since the acquisition and embarked upon building a unified cloud-based strategy that incorporates features and functions from both company's earlier efforts, Newton said.

"We had to return the portfolio back to market to be profitable," Newton said.

The bulk of Belkin's current engineering team came over from Linksys, he said.

Belkin also plans to bolster Linksys's consumer offerings, which will be carried by resellers such as Best Buy. Newton expects demand for these consumer-grade products to spill over into very small businesses.

"The smallest businesses act like consumers," he said. "They shop like consumers."

Belkin and Linksys will also be rolling out exclusive cloud product lines for small business customers, Newton said. And for firms needing a little more firepower, Belkin will be offering commercial versions of these products with more robust features that smaller customers don't want or need.

Dave Monk, CEO of ArcSource Tech Knowledge partners in Berkeley, Calif., said Linksys was the standard for his company many years ago, but he stopped recommending their products to clients after the Cisco purchase due to a diminution in quality.

He first heard about the Belkin acquisition of Linksys at XChange, and was very pleased by what he saw. The wireless routers -- where Linksys traditionally excelled -- were stunning, Monk said, and the new switches and access points also looked great.

Monk is seriously considering offering Linksys products again, based on what he saw.

"I used to love the Linksys brand," he said. "I'm really happy that they're back."