(Bloomberg News) -- John Chambers has long been considered the IT industry’s top salesman. The chief executive officer of Cisco Systems was early in pitching customers on the benefits of the Internet and briefly turned his business into the world’s most valuable company during the first dot-com boom. On May 4, when he announced plans to step down as CEO, Chambers was still selling his grand vision—predicting that a wave of Internet-connected kitchen appliances will unleash an even bigger boom for networking technology like Cisco’s. “We have a chance to do it all over again, except at a much larger scale,” he said during a press conference announcing his successor.

For IT companies, however, grand visions have lost much of their power since 1995, when Chambers, who remains chairman, became CEO. Hardware is becoming ever cheaper, and the growth of cloud-services providers such as Amazon.com has given companies of all sizes an alternative to buying expensive data center equipment from the likes of Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. The five companies declined to comment.

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