Cisco C-Scape 2006

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Cisco held their C-Scape conference. Cisco recently unveiled their slogan “The Human Network,” along with a new logo and a massive marketing campaign. The conference was used to further promote this vision and outline the company’s future direction.

The keynote was given, naturally, by Cisco CEO John Chambers. Paul Kapustka was in attendance, and live-blogged the speech for GigaOM. Two of Chamber’s remarks struck me as intriguing: “if there is a killer app, it is video” and “content should be in the network.”

Of course, such comments shouldn’t be seen as surprising. After all, Cisco makes its money selling networking products, and the demands of video heighten the need for Cisco’s gear. They also recently acquired Scientific Atlanta, one of biggest suppliers of equipment to cable companies. That doesn’t make the comments any less interesting however.

Tools such as Google Docs & Spreadsheets and SlideShare make it easy to store productivity-related content (documents, spreadsheets, presentations) in the network. In fact, these tools have wholly replaced my use of the traditional Microsoft Office.

The benefits of putting content in the network are numerous. There’s the peace of mind in not having to worry about disk failures and scheduling backups. No extra hassle is required to shuffle files among multiple computers. Collaboration with friends and colleagues is effortless. After a while, one starts to wonder how the old way ever worked to begin with.

Moving into the realm of audio and video, however, presents challenges. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a large digital music collection. Since the opening of the iTunes Store, I’ve purchased many songs, of which I only have a digital copy; no physical CD exists in my possession. In an effort to protect my investment, I’ve been backing up to Amazon S3.

Experience suggests, though, that moving audio entirely into the network isn’t desirable. Local copies remain on my computer so I can pull up any given track on a whim. Still further copies exist on my iPod for listening on the go.

However, I would welcome putting all video back into the network. I have iTunes season passes to a few of my favorite TV shows, with new episodes downloaded every week. Given the file size of an episode, I’m quickly running out of disk space. Because I rarely watch an episode multiple times, keeping lasting copies seems unnecessary. Yet, because I paid for them, I am hesitant to delete them.

It’s this psychological aspect of ownership that makes it convenient to put the video content in the network. I’d feel secure in that I “owned” the movies in my collection, without the fear of losing them to hard drive limitations. Couple that with the freedom of being able to download on demand, for viewing at home or on the go, and online video would be a “killer app.” For me, and for Cisco.

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