Cisco kills the Cius tablet

In a surprise move, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has confirmed it will no longer invest in developing the Cius tablet device running Android.

The Cius tablet was not a mainstream device, such as Apple’s iPad or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, but a purpose-built device that would be used for specific solutions involving its IP phones. It was introduce to much fanfare at the 2010 Cisco Live show in Las Vegas, but it did not sell well at all.

Market analyst and Cisco watcher Jon Arnold of JonArnold and Associates, was equally surprised at the move.

“They concede as it’s impossible to compete with iPad. They are better off to focus on enabling a great video experience, which is not Apple’s business. Am sure the channel has issues selling Cius so now Cisco can just focus on supporting any type of video endpoint, not just their own,” Arnold said.

O.J. Winge, Cisco’s senior vice-president and GM of the collaboration endpoints technology group, confirmed the news in a blog post: “Based on these market transitions, Cisco will no longer invest in the Cisco Cius tablet form factor, and no further enhancements will be made to the current Cius endpoint beyond what’s available today.”

Arnold compared this move to when Cisco stopped development of its Flip camera. “It’s the same as Flip, endpoints aren’t a great business. Also, their telepresence growth has slowed because there’s too much competition coming now from low cost desktop video. So, they need to scale back and focus on where they can get growth now.”

Winge went on to say that this decision does not mean the Cius is entirely dead nor on life-support. Cisco will continue to offer Cius in a limited fashion to customers with specific needs or use cases. For example, Cisco demonstrated during the Cius launch a K-12 education solution where the Cius would be housed on an IP phone at the teacher’s desk and be used to assign homework, projects and essays to student who would receive the information on the tablet of their choice. This solution would also bring in subject-matter experts into the classroom. The example the Cisco demo used was a submarine captain in the Caspian Sea explaining to students the workings of a sub.

The bring-your-own-device trend, or BYOD, played a huge part in Cisco’s decision to drop the Cius from its product portfolio. Winge said Cisco is facing a workplace that is no longer a physical place, but a blend of virtual and physical environments, where employees are bringing their preferences to work. BYOD is the new norm where collaboration has to happen beyond a walled garden, and any-to-any connectivity is a requirement, not a “nice-to-have.”

Cisco sponsored a study recently that showed the vast majority of U.S.-based firms are now adopting BYOD programs.

The networking giant surveyed 600 IT and business leaders and found 95 per cent of respondents said their organizations permitted employee-owned devices in the workplace. The survey also found that 84 per cent of companies provided BYOD IT support.

Dave MacDonald, CEO of solution provider Softchoice, of Toronto, said his company has not yet seen the BYOD trend take hold in the Canadian market. MacDonald believes that the BYOD trend is real and has prepared Softchoice, which is a Cisco channel partner, for this market transition, but that he has not run into a company that has a full BYOD policy in place. “Cost is an issue, but over time they will figure that out,” he said.

One of Softchoice’s BYOD readiness efforts includes a white label employee purchase program that would enable employees to source their computer or device of choice along with their preferred configuration.

As for Cisco, Winge added that the company has already moved software solutions such as Jabber and WebEx to other operating systems, tablets and smartphones.

“We’re seeing tremendous interest in these software offerings. Customers see the value in how these offerings enable employees to work on their terms in the Post-PC era, while still having access to collaboration experiences,” Winge said.

Joe Ussia, director of sales for Cisco partner Infinite IT Solutions Inc., of Mississauga, Ont., said this was a smart and logical move on Cisco.

“Cisco had to concede on the Cius and to go back to their roots and support industry standards as they usually do. As most other vendors who have strived to dislodge the goliath have failed (or are just about to), it makes sense to focus on what they are good at: the core that makes everything tick. Cisco is great at so many things, and it is imperative that they focus on technologies that actually matter. End points come and go, but the core is what keeps us connected,” Ussia said.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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