Cisco Wants to Cius Now

Wayne Rash

There's little doubt that tablet devices are headed for the enterprise. Will the Cius be among them?The biggest question has been about which tablets might be enterprise ready, and which are more likely to be something closer to toys that will waste time and expose the enterprise to potential security issues. Now the answers are becoming more clear.

Cisco has announced the Cius (pronounced 'See us'), which promises to be more applicable to a general business audience. The device actually comes from Cisco's Voice Technology group, and when inserted into one of its docking stations, looks a lot like a standard Cisco VoIP phone with a large screen. But in reality, the Cius is a stand-alone tablet device that's designed to be a video conferencing endpoint with additional capabilities. Because the device is based on Google's Android 2.2 operating system, it's able to run anything that's designed for the Android market .

The Cius includes a seven-inch screen and two cameras. One, facing the user, is a full 720p high-definition device designed to work with Cisco's room-sized TelePresence systems. The camera on the back is a VGA resolution 5-megapixel camera for more general uses. Unlike the iPad that's currently leading the way in tablet sales, the Cius is designed to be managed so that it can conform with enterprise policies. This means that it can meet specific security requirements, be limited as to what software it can download, and which websites it can visit.

The Cius is also designed to work in a desktop virtualization environment, which means it works with Citrix and other desktop clients as a thin client device. According to Barry O'Sullivan, vice president of Cisco's Voice Technology Group, this is a highly video-centric device that's designed to work with Wi-Fi, including both frequency bands of 802.11n, as well as 3G and 4G services. The services and carriers that the device will work with will depend on where the device will be used, but O'Sullivan said that the chipset can be configured to work with any 3G and 4G LTE standard in the area where it's sold.

O'Sullivan said he expects the device to be in high demand in health care and financial services, but he said that he expects to see it across all verticals because of its flexibility and its positioning as a video conferencing device rather than just a tablet. He said he also expects to see it show up in manufacturing environments, especially with a case that's designed to protect the Cius from harsh environments and that includes extra battery reserves.

While it remains to be seen how well the Cius does in the enterprise, it has a lot of potential, if only because it's not a repurposed consumer electronics device being forced into a business role. The iPad can be made to work in a business environment, while the Cius is designed for that role.

While pricing for the Cius remains to be worked out, O'Sullivan said it will cost 'under a thousand dollars' to buy one. Of course, since this is Cisco, it's probable that the pricing can be very flexible depending on your arrangements with the company and how many of these you're planning to buy.

So will the Cius be the answer to the demand for a tablet device in the enterprise? Perhaps. A great deal will depend on how well it works in the real world of spotty 3G coverage, flaky Wi-Fi and users who want the device to do something it's not designed for. But the iPad has all of those same problems, and it's clearly doing just fine.

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