1. The Talent Pool: Cisco is cutting roughly 15 percent of its top executives -- VP level and above. A few channel-related departures have already been disclosed. And Senior VP Keith Goodwin, in a blog post, disclosed some channel changes in late July 2011. But it's difficult to pinpoint how the rank-and-file channel employees will see their roles evolve.
2. Margins and Market Share: In early 2011, critics believed Cisco was losing margin and market share to Juniper and Hewlett-Packard. But in July Juniper announced a weak revenue forecast, which triggered a mindset shift on Wall Street. Now, some pundits think the overall networking market is weak -- and those pundits think Cisco may be best positioned to profit when the networking industry recovers a bit.
Still, the networking industry continues to suffer from some confusion. Are HP and Juniper gaining share? What are John Chambers' latest views on Cisco's market share? We'll find out August 10.
3. Consumer TelePresence: Cisco's consumer telepresence effort, Umi, didn't attract a crowd. So is Umi dead? Shifting into the SMB market? Something else? So far Cisco hasn't offered any firm long-term answers...
4. Set-top Boxes: Cisco recently sold its set-top box manufacturing facility and shifted 5,000 manufacturing workers to an outside company. But longer term, does Cisco intend to stay in the set-top box business?
5. Early Momentum: How are Cisco's next-generation businesses shaping up? Plenty of folks wonder if the Cisco Unified Computing System strategy (blending storage, networking and servers) is gaining real traction. Others wonder if VCE (a company that blends VMware, Cisco and EMC technologies) is gaining critical mass. Updates on both fronts would be welcome.
6. VIP Changes?: Some partners say Cisco has made cuts to the Value Incentive Program (VIP) -- costing some partners millions of dollars in lost revenues and profits. Those same partners worry that Cisco will further adjust the VIP strategy for Cisco's fiscal year 2012, which started August 1. During the August 10 earnings call or shortly thereafter, Cisco needs to address the VIP chatter in the channel.
No doubt, August is going to be a tense month at Cisco Systems. The layoffs become real this month. But Chambers' tone and mood on the August 10 earnings call could provide some clues about the company's long-term outlook.