Cisco takes on Apple with Android-based Cius business tablet

LAS VEGAS – In an out-of-left field type of announcement, John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), unveiled the Cius, a mobile tablet device running the Android operating system capable of HD-quality video, to a packed audience of more 12,000 on Tuesday at the Cisco Live conference.

The Cius looks like the Apple iPad, but it can be docked on an IP phone and is based on Google’s Android OS.

Cisco’s position with Cius is that it will be a collaboration device for business users interested in virtual desktop integration anywhere, anytime. The ultra-portable device weighs just 1.15lbs and is interoperable with Telepresence, Cisco’s video conferencing solution. The tablet features live streaming, real time video, multi-party conferencing, email, messaging, browsing, and cloud services.

Cisco also made the Cius an open platform based on Android with a form factor designed strictly for business users.

Chambers said that bringing telepresence to every device in the world was a goal of his. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words so if that’s right, then multimedia is worth a million words and you can’t do that with video as an afterthought if you want to bring collaboration to life,” he said.

He added that in the future, all phones will be video-enabled and that’s the main reason for Cius.

The Cius announcement surprised many in the industry including industry analyst Jon Arnold of J. Arnold & Associates of Toronto. “Cisco is not an end point product company. When you look at John Chambers’ idea to design these things in advance of what will drive the market the Cius makes perfect sense. It supports all the apps like video, telepresence and HDMI,” he said.

Arnold added that the Cius is just another step in Cisco’s evolution to becoming a consumer company with products such as the Flip video camera, Valet, and now Cius.

“You can’t deny the impact of Apple and the iPad in this game. They’ve made a game changing device so it’s not a big leap as it sounds right now. What Cius does is makes Cisco’s under the hood stuff really powerful,” Arnold said.

Patrick Power, practice manager, advanced network solutions for Edmonton-based solution provider Acrodex, described the Cius as revolutionary.

“This product will revolutionize the way people collaborate at a business level. It’s exciting and timely based on recently announced competitive products. Assuming its available through regular business channels to Cisco Partners, and can be delivered as a solution to customers with integration services, I am sure the Canadian channel will embrace this solution wholeheartedly. With features like full Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, 3G/4G data, HD video, and Virtual Desktop support, it’s a platform built for anywhere/anytime access,” Power said.

The decision to go with Android is a bold move, according to Arnold. “I would not have expected this from Cisco, but they want the world to know Cius is going to be open and will play with other systems. I thought that was a savvy move and ultimately, they will be fighting Apple. The best way to combat the Mac maker is to support Google,” Arnold said.

Power said that running the Android operating system will give Cisco the ability to ramp on the application side and it will make Cius extremely competitive if the price point is in tune with current market needs.

Cius will also be a device that brings many technological pieces and social networking together with video, security, wireless, WebEx and the Quad social media initiative from Cisco, all designed to work together in Cius.

As an example, Chambers demonstrated a live meeting between a teacher and the parents of a student on Cius. The teacher was able to develop a lesson plan on the Cius and transfer assignments to students, along with sending the results back to their parents. Another example of Cius’ collaboration capabilities was a live collaboration between the teacher, a student and the staff of a submarine, the HMS Triumph, submerged in the Aegean sea just off the coast of Turkey.

Chambers said that Cisco has informed many third party ISVs about the Cius so that they can create applications for the device, which can also be an e-book reader and digital camera.

Follow Paolo Del Nibletto on Twitter: @PaoloCDN.

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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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