Chambers has cemented Cisco's undisputed role as the No. 1 provider of the networking gear that powers the Internet and e-business.
He's taking Cisco into new, fiercely competitive territory: phone equipment for carrying voice and data traffic.
John T. Chambers likens Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) to a weapons broker in wartime. He doesn't care whether dot-coms or click-and-mortar shops win the e-commerce battle--as long as they use Cisco equipment. ''We're the experts in everything,'' says the Cisco CEO. ''We sell arms to everybody.''
That neutrality--and passion to succeed--has served the Internet's No. 1 salesman well. In five years as CEO, Chambers has increased Cisco's revenues more than tenfold, making it by far the leading supplier of the networking equipment that powers the Web. His influence is unparalleled: Cisco's gear literally defines what the Internet can do. And Chambers has been the Net's chief evangelist.
Take his promotion of voice-over-the-Net. A few years back, Chambers shocked telco execs by saying voice calls would soon be free. They were miffed but are coming around. Now, Chambers is moving beyond voice, driving Cisco into all kinds of communications: fiber optics, wireless, even call-center software. ''There are always multiple intergalactic battleships about to destroy us,'' he says. Lucky for Chambers, they keep missing their target.