Cisco is to acquire video specialist Scientific-Atlanta in a bid to offer customers the fourth component of what the company is calling a quad play - data, video, mobility and voice convergence.

"Video is emerging as a key element in the service provider's quad play," said John Chambers, Cisco's president and CEO. "In fact, video may be the most critical in this bundle for consumer loyalty."

Cisco already has products that let service providers deliver data, voice and mobility. Scientific-Atlanta, a maker of cable set-top boxes, adds the video component.

By integrating Scientific-Atlanta's set-top boxes with router products from Cisco's Linksys group, Cisco can make a converged offering to the market, Chambers said. "The opportunity for Cisco is to reduce complexity for users," he said. "An integrated architecture is in our opinion the only way to reduce complexity."

Industry observers agree. A single device includes cable TV capabilities, a cable modem, wireless LAN, VoIP and potentially even high-definition TV, would be valuable, said Peter Hulleman, a research manager at IDC. Cisco already has many of these technologies. A single device might make it easier for users to download movies from the Internet and watch them on their televisions, for example, Hulleman said.

With the backing of Cisco, Scientific-Atlanta is in a better position to pursue opportunities in a changing marketplace, said Jim McDonald, chairman, president and CEO of Scientific-Atlanta. He said that cable companies are moving toward a new architecture that allows them to deliver video and voice services over converged networks. At the same time, telephone companies are making offerings in the entertainment market. Both markets want integrated solutions from fewer vendors, he said.

"This dynamic environment has tremendous potential for us but we need more resources to capture the opportunity in these expanding markets," McDonald said. The Cisco acquisition will enable that, he said.

Scientific-Atlanta will become a division within Cisco's routing and service provider group and will operate as a separate business.