Cisco Systems made its biggest foray yet into the entertainment and social networking world by announcing plans late Tuesday for the Cisco Entertainment Operating System.
EOS will be a hosted software-as-a-service platform that Cisco will deliver sometime in 2008 to various media companies, said Dan Scheinman, general manager of the Cisco media solutions group. He spoke about the project in a keynote address late Tuesday at Cisco's annual analyst conference, C-Scape 2007, in San Jose.
The cost of the software service was not announced, but Scheinman said in a short interview that the service will likely be paid for through an advertising-sharing arrangement with media companies.
He said Cisco has already begun working with Nascar.com and NHL.com on the concept. On the NHL site, a community page for celebrity singer Kid Rock quickly won 20,000 visitors in November and showed that NHL can potentially be a provider and promoter of music, not just professional hockey, he said.
NHL.com built the Kid Rock page atop an alpha version of Cisco's EOS platform. The platform was developed out of Tribe and Five Across, two small acquisitions that Cisco made in February, Scheinman said. When the service goes live, he said Cisco will sell it to media companies and not to service providers.
As part of the EOS platform, Cisco will provide social networking capabilities, content distribution and content targeting, which will rely on a recognition and relevance software engine, Scheinman said. He said the concept behind the engine is that "content finds you" and not that users search blindly for content.
EOS is one of several new directions that Cisco has undertaken in recent years, as it attempts to expand beyond the corporate customer and to address the network needs of consumers and small businesses. CEO John Chambers has recently seen the company as needing to be more than a plumber that provides networking switches and routers.
"You don't pick Cisco as a social networking company, so it's very interesting that they are challenging that perception" with EOS, said Wu Zhou, an analyst at IDC.
She predicted that Cisco will "face lots of hurdles" with its EOS concept. "They have clear challenges since social media companies are burgeoning." She said the popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn, iGoogle and others show that the space is already crowded.
The fact that the public announcement of EOS came at the end of a long day of presentations to analysts, without the benefit of a news release, "makes me think that this is very [experimental] on Cisco's part," Zhou added.