...Microsoft also reduced prices on OS licensing to woo low-end tablet manufacturers. I think Cisco is just coming back down to reality and noticing that people aren't necessarily selecting their stuff as the only choice anymore. Maybe this means no more insane list prices for basic network hardware? Naah...
The things I see Cisco, Microsoft, HP, etc. providing to businesses that they can charge a premium for are:
- Service and support
- A stable platform with a known release schedule that doesn't throw in the latest new cool thing just for fun
- A well-known product supported by many IT pros with a training and certification program to at least give you a starting point evaluating candidates
The problem with all these vendors is that these things have been watered down over time in pursuit of higher license profits. Cisco can't just keep commanding the premium pricing it does and not give businesses what they're looking for. Eventually even the execs start noticing.
My personal favorite with Cisco these days is that they ship equipment that's intentionally crippled until you pay for feature licenses. One set of SSL VPN license features I saw at work cost almost $25K for a piece of paper with a serial number on it...in addition to the actual hardware which was incredibly expensive for what it was. We haven't even started looking at the Cisco UCS server hardware yet just because we know it's going to be insanely expensive and require $$$ in ongoing maintenance contracts.
There is something to be said for having a source of trained individuals though...if that training program is decent. I work with a very niche-market systems management product from a very large enterprisey software vendor, and it is very difficult to find anyone who knows about the particular quirks of the product. It doesn't help that this particular vendor doesn't provide good documentation or even a product that can work out of the box with most environments, or that the core of the product is almost 20 years old and all the top-layer cool stuff is wrapped around a completely proprietary protocol stack from the 90s. If I were using something like System Center, there's Microsoft certified individuals who know the product, an active user community and easy access to help. Right now, our only source of help is the enterprisey vendor's "professional services" teams...groan.