For many of us, it's getting tough to even remember our 25th birthday. For a Silicon Valley technology company, 25 years is an eternity. Cisco Systems, as of today, joins a pretty exclusive club. They've been in business for a quarter of a century, and they're still as relevant as ever.
Back in 1984, there were 1,000 machines connected to the Internet (back then, they were called "hosts"). Today, there are nearly 2 billion Net users, a figure growing by the second, and more than a billion connected devices.
Cisco itself started with two employees, a pair of former Stanford computer scientists. Today, the company employs 63,000 people worldwide, with, according to CEO John Chambers, a plan to grow even more.
Look for NBC Bay Area's exclusive interview with Cisco CEO John Chambers later today.
One of the more impressive feats of the dotcom boom was when Cisco Systems, even then a fairly unknown company, became the most valuable company in the world, by stock market value. In short order, "plumbing," the back-end systems that power the internet, became very sexy. And valuable. Just ask Cisco (and Juniper, and Brocade) shareholders. But now, with increased competition and a marketplace that's come to expect such plumbing, Cisco is trying to change the game.
The path to a consumer company is a risky one. Cisco, long famous for its acquisitions, has recently spent big to add companies like Linksys and Flip to its lineup, bringing its portfolio to your home and your pocket. Will it work?
Chambers thinks so, but recognizes that it's not an overnight transformation.
Investors, too, are hanging in there for the most part, but they've had to be patient. Cisco shares are actually a little lower than where they were at the start of 2001. That's nearly nine years of treading water.
It's arguable that Cisco is the most important technology company of the last 25 years. Apple? IBM? HP? Yahoo? All have a place in the argument as well. As it shifts direction from the server room to the living room, the question is who's willing to follow.