Does looking for green business strategies lead Cisco into new markets?
Yes. Consider the smart grid, which has its own business unit [in the company]. From one perspective, it is a play to get us into traditional utilities, a long way from computer networking. It’s a conservative sector with a lot of legacy and history that makes it hard for [established companies] to innovate. We realized that both [computer networks] and the energy grid are moving electrons—sometimes photons—around. That’s a great new business opportunity to leverage our expertise.
The green side is that we will enable the grid to support technologies that cut greenhouse-gas emissions. More electrified transport creates load and demand problems for utilities; imagine we all try and plug in our electric or plug-in hybrid cars at once. Using renewable energies like solar and wind also requires the grid to handle intermittent flows of power. We need smarts in both the devices and the network to manage those—more sophisticated control systems.
Will Cisco enter new green areas of business in the next year?
Possibly, but I don’t think what’s coming is going to be as sexy as the initial push. We’re going to go beyond the early adopters. I may have a telepresence setup in my home, but I work at Cisco. We want most people to have HD videoconferencing from their [home and work] desktops. From a green perspective of making the biggest impact on emissions, it becomes less about technology and more about adoption.
Tom Simonite is IT Editor for Software and Hardware at Technology Review.