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Cisco Crams Its Broad(band) Ambitions Into an Android Tablet

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UPDATED: Cisco (s csco) today unveiled a planned Android (s goog) tablet that gives the router company ownership at every point on the network — from the computers serving up the web and the network infrastructure that delivers the bits, to the end device that consumers will use for access. Cisco is betting that its cachet with the enterprise and its ability to offer an integrated solution that can be controlled throughout the enterprise justifies its entrance into the tablet market.

Cisco CEO John Chambers pointed out the tight integration with the network in his speech announcing the device, saying that unlike the consumer tablets, the Cisco Cius (pronounced see-us) is designed to work with video, collaboration and all of the cloud services in a seamless way that’s controlled by an enterprise. Cisco showed off the ability to make the device work with its Flip camera as well as with its new smart grid gadgets, and it sounds like it might also work with Cisco’s Telepresence, which uses a proprietary protocol. The device, expected out in the first quarter of 2011, tries to bring together Cisco’s love of video, collaboration and the network in a portable package appropriate for the enterprise or educational market.

During the demos, the most remarkable aspect was how interactive the Cisco tablet experience will be, compared with the hottest tablet out today, the Apple (s aapl) iPad. Cisco is building a device around collaboration, not consumption, which makes sense given how collaboration is a big focus point for Cisco and for getting work done.

Essentially this is the next step for Cisco’s voice-over-IP phone business. “Video is the new voice,” said Chambers — a sentiment I’m not sure everyone is ready to embrace. Regardless, the contrasts between the role of broadband in Cisco’s worldview and that of Apple’s are striking, and it’s worth asking yourself if you’d rather have a tablet built for interactive collaboration or web-connected entertainment.

The tablet itself sounds like it will use the ARM (s armh) architecture inside, at least based on the anticipated 8-hour battery life,(Update: It actually uses Intel’s Atom) and the use of Android is a big coup for Google. Kevin and James questioned whether this device would be able to access the Android Market since Google has been reluctant to allow that in the past, although Cisco touts the Android developer community in its release.

The Cius weighs almost as much as an iPad (which is pretty heavy), has 720p HD, a 5-megapixel camera, and a bunch of radios for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G (4G is coming, although Cisco did not say if it would be WiMAX or LTE). Kevin also wondered if the 7-inch screen size might be too small for enterprise use, and if people really wanted to carry a Cius, a smartphone and a laptop. He also pointed about the “Super VGA” screen resolution will likely be underwhelming at the current screen size.

My hunch is that if Cisco wants to sell a lot of these tablets, it will either have to prove that it’s better in the consumer space than it is currently (and beef up the hardware on the tablet), or it will have to really sell enterprises, schools and other large organizations on the integration story and video phones as our collaborative future. As long as it’s selling to CIOs, Cisco’s tablet has a chance.

Related GigaOM Pro research (sub req’d): The Consumer Video Chat Market Forceast

15 Responses to “Cisco Crams Its Broad(band) Ambitions Into an Android Tablet”

  1. If this is really aimed at corporate users then Cisco had better make sure that encryption and centralized control options are built-in.

    Otherwise putting a mobile device out there with open source OS will lead to serious security concerns.

  2. As a big Cisco customer, I’m very concerned about this. Cisco is struggling to deliver on key software features and have long lead times on routing and switching equipment. This is causing a lot of stress for people inside big companies.

    It seems clear that Cisco’s management team have been off playing with toys such as the Flip and now this Cius thing and have failed to manage the core business. It’s very worrying.

    Attempting to look “cool with the kids” isn’t a good idea while your core business gets abandoned.

    • There is a growing number of Cisco customers interested in those “toys”. If you watch TV news – which ain’t easy, I know – you should have noticed spots gathering together several commentators and journalists with a note at the bottom of the screen indicating they were joined by Cisco Telepresence.

      Among the several businesses I track that are growing back to normal in our economy, expanding – a few also are starting up with the same package. It works. It will make money for Cisco.

      BTW – if it keeps growing, the hardware manufacturers making the devices like the conferencing phone illustrated in the article will offer it to Apple already modified to dock with the iPad.

      If they haven’t already. :)

      • That’s a fallacious argument. The toys are not being sold to enterprise, but to SME or personal users. And since they are not shipping or have been effectively outclassed by competitors, you cannot claim success.

        Cisco appears to be moving into consumer at the expense of their infrastructure business. And that’s where their profit comes from.

    • It’s about collaboration not switches and routers. CIO’s are not intrestead in that stuff it’s about enabling the business to perform more effiecently Cisco realizes that just like many other companies, the PC is history and this is the first major enteprise evolution in years that can truely change the way we do business. I would recommend that you get on board now these “toys” they are the future of enterprise computing. I for one will be glad to ditch the laptop for a truely mobile enterprise device.

  3. Brett Glass

    Cisco’s big mistake is using Android. Any company which allies itself with Google will certainly be stabbed in the back; it’s just a matter of time.

    • I’d say Android is a necessary springboard for Cisco. What options do they have? Make their own OS ? Fail. Use Windows ? Super optimistic, if not downright fail. Of course in the long run, Android will leash you to Google. And so will any other choice (Look at what happened to Nokia eons ago with Symbian). That said, nothing to take away from (what used to be) the “do no evil” company’s business ambitions.

  4. Perhaps the Cius was the reason Cisco’s stock price dropped -3.57% today. Also simultaneously today, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed in a Form 8-K filing that Cisco insiders – Randy Pond, Mark Chandler and Larry Carter were planning to sell 1,575,266 shares of Cisco stock (currently valued at $34 million).


    Brad Reese