Cisco On the Acquisition Hunt: What Does it Hope to Accomplish?

Includes: CSCO, WEBX
by: Paul Kedrosky

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) continues its redefinition with news that the networking company is buying WebEx Communications (WEBX), the online conferencing service. You can argue, I suppose, that WebEx sucks up bits, and Cisco sells bit-shunting equipment, so they're complementary, but pretty much everything online sucks up bits, so by that measure we should expect CiscoTube and a search engine next. And while that's possible, I doubt it will happen.

Cisco has done some unusual acquisitions lately, with this one, plus its earlier this year year buy of Five Across, a social network construction tool. Where does it think it's going? It's really not clear, other than that the company didn't think it was exposed enough to consumers and to technology markets growing faster than its core networking business, so now it has some call options, not to mention a grounded way of forcing itself to stay on top of trends it might otherwise have ignored.

A Cisco exec has reminded Reuters that the WebEx buy was less than 2% of Cisco's market-cap, and that we should expect "more of these" acquisitions soon.

Okay, so let's start the engines: Who else is newly in play with Cisco playing acquisitor? Should we add it to the GYM mix (Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)/Yahoo (YHOO)/Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)) nexus of typical Web 2.0 acquirers? Stranger things have happened.

Beyond that ... let's just say that while this is not your father's Cisco, it's not clear just whose Cisco it is becoming either.