Cisco Clarifies Its Palm Relationship (CSCO, PALM, RIMM)

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In corporate America there are many developments and deployments that never make it public because they are minor events to the company that day.  But sometimes even a slight change in technology use or adoption in one company can have ripple effects that play out against another company or an entire sector over time.  Last week we ran a piece titled “Palm’s True Loss: Cisco as a Client” that discussed Cisco Systems’ (NASDAQ:CSCO) changing from Palm Treo smartphone devices.  The good news for Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) is that Cisco Systems is not dumping the Palm Treo smartphone, or at least not entirely. 

What is happening is that as part of the mobile workforce plan, Cisco is offering a variety of smartphone devices to choose from.  This is after a one and a half to two year upgrade after first noticing Cisco’s mobile workforce in summer of 2005 with Palm Treos attached.  Cisco users in this latest upgrade cycle were offered a choice of the Nokia E61i (not the regular Nokia E61 as stated in prior article), Motorola’s Q phone, Samsung’s BlackJack and i600, RIM Blackberry and the Treo 650.   

So the Palm Treo is not completely out of the picture.  Research-in-Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) is in there after all, and that makes sense considering the deployments that have worked on a cross-over basis with both companies and the related networks for some time.  Discussions with contacts inside Cisco did not indicate that Blackberry was a choice initially.  A communication from Molly Ford, one of Cisco’s PR managers, did indicate that Cisco IT continues to talk to a widerange of handset manufacturers about their future roadmaps and test devices foraddition to the internal certified range of devices, including Apple, HP, HTC,Motorola, Nokia, Palm, Samsung and RIM.   

Molly Ford also indicated that Palm worked very hard over the last couple of years to provide Cisco IT with support for its fleet and that Cisco would have no problem in picking a Palm device in the future.  So it appears the good news is that Palm is not being canned entirely.  But the choices in smartphones have increased. 

While it is not public what percentage of employees are changing devices, personal contacts have noted that it isn’t just a few here and there.  If this was the brand of a ballpoint pen or which personal ISP was being used, it wouldn’t even be a discussion. These smartphone devices are such a topic of conversation among business people and random airport travelers that any new device introductions can matter.  If this was Acme Router Co. making this change it would not be an issue.  But this is Cisco, and the company indirectly influences many technology decisions and directions outside of its own efforts.  This can create some added ripples that otherwise would not have come up.

Neither of the above points would be noted if it wasn’t for seeing this directly and hearing about it so frequently from personal and professional contacts.  Wall Street and all of its minions have become techies whether they like it or not, and this carries over into almost every field with mobile sales and support staff.  Almost on every business (or pleasure) trip from New York to Chicago to California it seems the latest smartphones are a topic of conversation.   I won’t bore you with other such examples and references that have been shared by my contact base, but that’s more than just conjecture.

Jon C. Ogg
September 11, 2007

Jon Ogg produces the 24/7 Wall St. SPECIAL SITUATION INVESTING NEWSLETTER; he does not own securities in the companies he covers.