Small business will lead recovery, says Cisco CEO

Small and medium-sized businesses are likely to form the leading edge of a recovery in the US economy and IT spending, Cisco...

Small and medium-sized businesses are likely to form the leading edge of a recovery in the US economy and IT spending, Cisco president and chief executive officer John Chambers said.

"Small business will be the primary job growth [engine] in this next decade for this country, but it will also [adopt] technology at a faster pace... and potentially at a much faster pace than the enterprise customers have traditionally done," Chambers said.

Recent advances in IT could help small businesses recover faster from this economic downturn than from earlier recessions, in part because the internet can give them a longer reach for distribution and customer support.

Companies may soon begin replacing their PCs, according to John Edwardson, chairman and chief executive officer of CDW Computer Centers.

Recent CDW sales figures show unit sales of PCs up from last year, he noted. Systems that were purchased in 1999 as insurance against Y2K meltdowns are now four years old, so IT managers may consider them ready for replacement. In addition, CDW customers, two-thirds of which are small businesses, are shifting to notebook PCs for mobility.

Other hot products include wireless Lans, Ethernet switches, routers, combination printer-scanner-copier-fax machines and software, especially firewall and other security software, Edwardson said.

Christopher Younger, president of system integrator Expanets, also is optimistic about sales to small businesses. One promising development is that lenders are becoming more generous, making it easier for the businesses to finance IT investments.

Those small businesses left standing after the past few years are likely to be better credit risks than many that were looking for loans before the downturn, he said.

Chambers also repeated his call for a strong national policy to promote broadband, and he expanded the crusade to wireless data policy.

Every American should have at least two choices for broadband by the end of this decade, and wireless policy should allow many different kinds of devices to take advantage of wireless bandwidth, he said.

The US lags behind all other major industrialised countries on broadband policy, he said.

"If this country doesn't move dramatically faster on broadband implementation... and on finding effective ways to share the wireless, we're going to be at a major competitive disadvantage. We have to move faster," Chambers said.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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