The tablet PC competition gained a new entrant Tuesday as Cisco unveiled its forthcoming Android-based device. But instead of taking aim at the market-creating iPad, Cisco wants its tablet, Cius, to find homes in enterprises, acting as a communications device -- and possible desktop replacement.
Since the iPad is the device du jour, though, comparisons are inevitable. At 1.15 pounds, Cius is lighter than Apple's 1.5 pound tablet, but its 7 inch screen may seem a little puny given that the iPad touts 10 inches. Cisco didn't announce pricing, but it says Cius, which sports a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, will cost less than $1,000.
Cisco is stressing its device's videoconferencing capabilities. Unlike the camera-less iPad, Cius has two -- a front-facing 720p HD camera and a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera. And Cisco says the tablet is designed with its communication and collaboration products -- like WebEx -- in mind.
"This platform can transform how healthcare professionals advance patient care; how retailers deliver service experiences to consumers, or how universities deliver world-class education to their students," said Cisco SVP Tony Bates in a statement, adding that the tablet "offers IT functions a way to dramatically lower the cost-per-user of provisioning those new experiences."
Cisco says testing with users will begin in the third quarter, and Cius will hit the market early next year. That release date could pit it against another tablet taking aim at the enterprise -- one from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. That RIM device, which is reportedly in the early stages, is expected to leverage the company's touchscreen-oriented BlackBerry OS 6.0.
But current rumor has it that the RIM tablet will need to tether to a BlackBerry for network connectivity. Cius will support Wi-Fi and 3G, and Cisco expects to add 4G connectivity at a later date. It also has a detachable battery that has an eight-hour life.
In multiple interviews, Cisco executives have said they weren't concerned with the iPad during Cius' 18 month development. And the company is stressing that they and Apple are playing in different markets. "We haven't thought about a big consumer play at all here," Barry O'Sullivan, voice technology SVP, told the New York Times. "This is a mobile video device for corporate users."
But the difference between enterprise and consumer technology is blurring. Business users who buy iPads are likely to bring them to work. And the second version of the Apple tablet, which will no doubt offer a set of cameras equal to those of Cius, will probably hit the market not long after the Cisco tablet does. That could take a big bite out of Cisco's bid to be the enterprise tablet provider.Of course, Cisco is able to point to its enterprise security capabilities. While Cius users will have access to apps through Google's Android Market, notes Cisco, they'll also be working on a device that supports corporate security requirements.