Desk mode: The Cius can be plugged into a new Cisco phone, and function as a desktop computer.
However, the Cius lags other Android tablets in that it uses a now-outdated version of the operating system, code-named FroYo, which was intended only for phones. Cisco say they will catch up, but are waiting for the fall release of Android, code-named Ice Cream Sandwich, a version that Google says will seamlessly span phones and tablets.
Ken Dulaney, a VP and analyst with Gartner specializing in mobile devices, says that Cisco has likely delivered something that none of the 200 or so other tablets launching this year can match. “Samsung’s latest Galaxy Tab has much more advanced hardware,” he says, “what Cisco has done is create a special case of Android that adds things the enterprise needs and is a unique combination of phone, tablet and videoconferencing device.”
Other companies have hinted at plans for enterprise-friendly revamps of Android, says Dulaney, including Motorola, but none have so far yet delivered.
Although the Cius may not seem competitive with Apple’s iPad 2 to consumers, to businesses concerned about their security it likely has distinct advantages. Apps such as MobileIron exist to help IT staff control iPads, but Apple’s operating system fundamentally limits the extent to which the iPad can be managed remotely, says Dulaney. “With Android, Cisco could go in at a low level and change how the device is managed so a company can manage everything for the user.”
Without an existing investment in Cisco phone and communication systems, though, many company may see little appeal. Puorro says that Cisco continues to develop and release iPad and iPhone apps for its collaboration software, a strategy Dulaney says is wise. “Of course Cisco will also aggressively support iPads,” he says. “I think they’re going to see how the Cius does, and if it doesn’t work out, work hard to support the most popular tablets.”