Chris Kranky

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Cisco: Free drug samples

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

drugsThank you Cisco for taking a 10 year old ancient video codec called H.264, ponying up $6.5m a year to pay licensing fees for us poor Internet sods and pretending like you’re the good neighbor by posting all of this on a .org domain. I was born at night, just not last night. When did Cisco suddenly become some benevolent care giver to the Internet world? Ah never.

What I dislike more than anything else is when a company pretends to be doing something transparently when in fact, it is anything but transparent. What exactly are the terms and conditions around Cisco deal with MPEGLA? No response. Why would MPEGLA allow this? No answer. Thanks for the old stuff, what about the new H.265 codec?  Never heard of it.

All of this sounds like our neighborhood drug dealer giving out free samples in hopes of getting us hooked. Monty Montgomery (@Mozilla but writing on his own)  gushes on his blog  how the battle for VP8 has been lost with this announcement (really – a single announcement, a day into it and the battle is already lost? I’m not sure I want Monty defending my country).

The key message is that Cisco is “paying” the royalties for all of us. Gee thanks. But this also means that H.264 is not free, just that Uncle Cisco paid our tab. What happens when Uncle Cisco doesn’t want to pay the tab anymore?

Clearly Cisco is feeling very threatened despite being a $20 billion a year business generating $5 billion in profit. Open source routing & networking software, open source cloud platforms, WebRTC threatening both their WebEx business and video conferencing business and lets not forgot their legacy voice PBX business (oh I’m sorry, almost forgot the new name – Unified Communications) gone to hell in a hand basket. The risk of becoming irrelevant is very real. Not short term, but clearly longer term. Note to CEO – time to take some action. And indeed they have.

“If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.” 
― George Carlin

I’m not proposing that our friends at Google are more benevolent. They play a complex game themselves. But clearly this announcement (aka salvo) is aimed directly towards Mountain View. My guess is Google is not going to bother to react. Cisco doesn’t make, own or control the browser or the desktop. So who cares? This is clearly a move by the old guard to try and disrupt the new guard.

We, as a group, need to spend more time on innovation; increasing the efficiency of our communications is the path forward toward new market opportunities and the time we spend arguing about patents and licensing is wasted. If you & I can game this announcement to our advantage, why not, but I’m not interesting in being played. Unfortunately, this announcement smacks of us being played.