Buzz in the tablet market my be dominated by consumer devices like the Apple iPad 2 and Android devices like the Galaxy Tab and the Motorola Xoom, but networking giant Cisco is looking to get into the game too—only its targeting enterprises and video conferencing capabilities, rather than Web browsing, social networking, and application markets. The Cisco Cius sports a 7-inch display, Android 2.2, and a five megapixel video-capable camera—and while the Cius isn’t expected to be generally avail able until the end of May, the company has revealed some partners are setting hands on the units now.
Instead of enabling users to keep up with their social networking sites or play furious games of Angry Birds, the Cisco Cius aims to integrate with existing corporate and enterprise communications setups: that includes things like secured email and instant messaging between employees, but also tapping into telephone, voicemail, and video conferencing systems while complying with enterprise security and auditing requirements. When someone drags an iPhone or iPad into an organization, IT crews can go nuts to make sure call logs are properly kept, apps meet mobility policy and security requirements, and the organization can keep its hands on its intellectual property even if a tablet (or an employee) goes AWOL. The Cisco Cius is designed to work as just another endpoint on a managed corporate network, while giving employees connectivity and communications features they need.
Under the hood, the Cius is based on an 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor and runs Android 2.2. However, unlike typical Android devices, Cius users won’t be able to run out to any old app store and load anything they like willy-nilly: Cius administrators will be able to control what apps people can load onto the devices. The Cius sports a 7-inch 1,024 by 600-pixel touchscreen display, 1 GB of RAM, 32 GB of flash storage, a front-facing camera capable of supporting 720p, 30fps video communication via Cisco Telepresence as well as a rear-facing 5 megapixel camera for video and still images. The Cius sports integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking. Cisco is also marketing a blocking station for the Cius tablet that makes the whole thing resemble a typical corporate telephone handset—except the base station also supports three USB 2.0 ports, DisplayPort for hooking up to bigger screens, gigabit Ethernet, and either a standard or slimline telephone handset for more-private conversation. Verizon Wireless has indicated it plans to offer LTE-enabled versions of the Cius to enterprise customers, as well.
Although the Cius probably won’t be any competition for the Apple iPad when it finally reaches a broader market in May, the Cius may give the BlackBerry Playbook a run for its money: although RIM remains popular in enterprise circles, the company has yet to solidly position the Playbook as either a consumer electronics device or a friend to corporate IT managers. Cisco’s Cius is coming down firmly on the corporate side of the fence.