SM: Did the market understand your positioning as an integrated networking solution? EB: I think they did. Of course we were coming from behind in routers, and we were behind SynOptics in hubs, and we were behind others in single categories.
We started to strengthen our position in all our segments, and this helped because we then had synergy. Turns out if you could make a network work, even if you did not have the best products in all the categories, then you were the solution of choice. The fact is that the industry was unfolding as a global data network industry according to our vision, and that really helped us and allowed us to pull ahead.
Synoptics was only a hub company and they realized they needed a router piece to compete, so they merged to create Bay. Bay was a creation that reacted to a global networking boom.
Cisco had to do something to not be pigeon holed as a router company, and they bought a switching company.
SM: They all followed the same strategy as 3Com? EB: Yes, and Cabletron did the same thing on the east coast. These four companies pulled ahead because they played the global data networking game, but it was 3Com that had the vision. Throughout the 1990s we had intellectual leadership of the industry; all of the key trends came out of our work, in terms of the transition of hubbing and the invention of switching.
During the better part of the 1990s we were closing in and growing faster than anyone else, with a more diversified customer base geographically and demographically. Cisco focused on large companies in technical environments. We had a good base in all sizes of companies.
The industry was driven by visionaries. It was not driven by sales people at the time. Then it was important to understand how networks had to be built. At 3Com we had this advantage that we had really smart people in this area and we could figure out how to build high performance scalable networks better than others. In terms of a Gartner Matrix, for example, we scored the highest.