Cisco brings fresh blood to Linksys

Former Polaroid chief J. Michael Pocock will run Cisco's Linksys business.

Cisco Systems has named a new general manager to run its Linksys division and is tapping the founders of the home and small-business networking business to help build Cisco's business in China.

J. Michael Pocock, formerly president and chief executive officer of Polaroid, earlier this week came on board as senior vice president and general manager of Linksys, Cisco said Thursday. He will report to Charles Giancarlo, who is president of Linksys as well as senior vice president and chief development officer of Cisco.

Linksys, acquired by Cisco in 2003, is the world's dominant vendor of wireless LANs for consumers and small and home offices. It also makes other products for those markets. It's now flirting with the consumer electronics business, selling gear such as a wireless music adapter with speakers, though executives have said the company's role will primarily be to connect entertainment products to each other and the Internet. Along with running Linksys' operations and product development and engineering, one of Pocock's roles will be leading expansion into new markets, according to Cisco.

Pocock joined Polaroid in 2003 and oversaw the instant camera and film pioneer's expansion into making portable DVD players, MP3 players and plasma TVs. Previously he worked at Xerox, Epson, Digital Equipment and Compaq.

Victor and Janie Tsao, who are married and founded Linksys in 1988, had shared the roles of senior vice president and general manager since the acquisition by Cisco. Both attended Tamkang University in Taiwan and worked as enterprise IT managers in the U.S. for years before starting the company, according to biographies on Linksys' Web site.

The pair will now focus on building Cisco's and Linksys' business in China, including seeking out investment opportunities, building relationships with local businesses and exploring new product markets, Cisco said. They will continue reporting to Giancarlo.

Cisco's business in fast-growing China frequently hasn't matched its performance in some other developing countries. In its fiscal third quarter ended April 29, its product order growth was about 40 percent in India but in the low single digits in China. The country's gross domestic product grew more than 9 percent in 2005, according to government figures. In addition, Cisco sees Chinese and other Asian vendors trying to encroach on its dominance of the networking business in the coming years.