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Cisco Cius is not a tablet

Cisco's new Cius is more an enticement for Cisco collaboration suite than an iPad competitor, experts say

By , Network World
July 01, 2011 12:02 PM ET

Network World - Despite its inevitable comparisons to the popular Apple iPad, Cisco's Cius is viewed more as another entry point into Cisco's collaboration ecosystem and less as the company's entry into tablet computing.

Launched a year ago, the Cius was reintroduced this week with pricing and an availability date: $750, and July 31. Cisco is pitching it as a business, rather than all-purpose, tablet computer for inter- and intra-enterprise collaboration, combining data, phone and TelePresence video capabilities in a single desktop or mobile device.

But with Apple's iPad already established as a general-purpose tablet for home and business use, and with enterprises selectively allowing employees to access company information and applications from the personal device of their choosing, Cius isn't expected to make much of an impact beyond Cisco's base of IP telephony and collaboration customers.

BUSINESS USES: 10 compelling apps for Cisco Cius

"I look at Cius as a reference design," says Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "It's useful for what you're doing -- if you're in a vertical market where the telephony and collaboration stuff works together. But as a tablet by itself, I don't think it's going to be that interesting."

Dulaney mentioned that Cius is "thicker" and based on an older version of Android than more general-purpose tablets. And purchasing Cius will be based on a customer's acceptance of Cisco's collaboration foundation -- namely, Unified Communications Manager -- rather than the appeal of Cius itself.

"You can get iPads to work on a variety of collaboration systems today," Dulaney says.

Indeed, ProtonMedia, a collaboration systems integrator, is preparing for pilots involving 5,000 iPads. ProtonMedia President and COO Reggie Best is skeptical that Cius will command that type of demand.

ProtonMedia is an authorized reseller of Microsoft unified communications software and does not have any authorized resale arrangement with Apple or Cisco.

"The device that everybody is asking us to support is iPad and iOS," Best says. "Nobody's asked me about Cius, ever. But I can only base this on the large multinationals that we're selling to. Everybody's got a pilot that's starting or rolling out on iPad in 2011 or 2012."

But huge factors in selecting an enterprisewide tablet platform are applications and security, observers note. Apple may have a ton more applications on iPad than Cisco has on Cius -- Cisco just rolled out its AppHQ store for Cius this week, too -- but Cisco's are tailored specifically for securely allowing businesses to collaborate on projects.

"Depending on how Apple plays it, it could be their game to lose at this point," says Spencer Giacalone, an independent IT and networking consultant in Jersey City, N.J. "Security is a big factor."

That's where Cisco has the edge, according to Dulaney. Even though the AppHQ store may be sparsely populated right now, its focus is on enterprise battle-tested collaboration applications that emphasize security.

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