The integration of Linksys into Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) is taking another step forward with the announcement that the Linksys Business Series products will be moving under the Cisco umbrella and Linksys Small Business Channel Partner Program is being folded into the Cisco channel program.
Former Linksys Canada channel manager Bob Martin now holds the role of territory manager, SMB for Cisco Canada. The Linksys worldwide channel chief position was eliminated in March. Martin says the integration of the Linksys and Cisco SMB products and partners under the Cisco brand creates what they’re calling Connected Office Business Operations (COBO), focusing on the S of the SMB.
In the consumer space, Martin says the Linksys brand will be staying for products such as the newly redesigned Linksys routers sold through the retail channel, with a focus on the SOHO space.
“Why would you want to stop a very strong brand for the consumer market,” said Martin. “It’s a strong name; I haven’t heard anything about the brand name going away.”
In the SMB though, Martin says partners have been facing roadblocks selling into the SMB-space with the Linksys brand, which is perceived as more consumer-oriented.
“It’s an evolution, a natural process, integrating products into Cisco catalogue moving forward,” said Martin. “It will mean more solutions, and more support for VARs.”
All product numbers will remain the same as before, and partners will still work with the same distributors but now, says Martin, they’ll only have to work with one vendor.
Letters have gone-out to all Linksys partners inviting them to register with the Cisco program if they wish to continue selling the Linksys offerings. For a limited time, Martin says all Linksys partners moving over will be offered Cisco SMB Select certification at no cost.
“If they were Linksys registered partners before there should be no issues,” said Martin.
Linksys partners are being asked to register for the Cisco program as soon as possible, within the next few weeks. The Linksys program will be gradually phased-out through September, but all benefits for Linksys COHO partners will be maintained thru the end of October.
Under the Cisco partner program, Martin says former Linksys partners will have access to the greater technical, marketing, lead generation and other resources of the program. And while there have been past integration moves between the Linksys and Cisco programs, with the full integration and access to the full Cisco suite of SMB products and solutions he says partners will have even greater revenue opportunities.
The SMB space is an extremely strategic focus for Cisco, he says, and particularly in Canada, where such a high percentage of the market is SMB.
“The SMB business really is a partner-focused business for us,” said Martin. “That’s the only way we can scale.”
Dan Schwab, president of D&H Distributing, says he had been hoping Cisco would merge the two programs into a unified SMB partner program spanning products, services and support.
“A single Cisco relationship will definitely mitigate challenges and simplify how we do business with our channel partner community,” said Schwab. “Quite simply, the whole is more than the sum of the parts for Cisco and Linksys.”