Robba Benjamin has come a long way from hawking powdered health drinks for vitamin maker Shaklee. Now Benjamin, 51, is on a mission to transform data-networking giant Cisco Systems as the heads of its new consumer-products group.

On Jan. 8, in its first major foray into consumer networking, Cisco was to announce a broad set of partnerships and licensing agreements with the likes of Sony, Panasonic, AT&T, and MCI. The electronics makers will add Cisco technology to gizmos like cable modems and set-top boxes, while service providers will offer high-speed Net access that works best with Cisco-compatible gear. The combo may make life harder for Cisco rival 3Com.

Benjamin, a former Sprint marketing exec who joined Cisco last August to head its consumer push, caught network fever years ago while helping a thrift boost its customer service through technology. She says she aims to "extend the Net revolution into the home." Given today's hunger for Net.anything, that idea could go down more easily than a protein shake.

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