Why Not to Cheer about Cius's Demise
The demise of Cisco Cius is less of a victory for Apple in the tablet market and more a defeat for business communications solution developers in the UC market.
Late last week a lot of Cisco competitors, industry pundits, and armchair product managers issued a steady stream of I Told You So's as Cisco pulled the plug on its Cius tablet. But I'm not ashamed to admit it: I'm sorry to see the demise of Cius. I thought it was a fabulous product. Not as a consumer tablet, but as an IP end point. And here's why.
All too often Cius was referred to as a tablet that happened to be engineered to support voice and video communications particularly well in business settings. And this, so goes the popular wisdom, was why it failed: Cisco tried to outdo Apple with a more expensive but ultimately less flexible device.
The problem is, this isn't what Cius was.* Cius was an IP endpoint that registered to a Cisco PBX, just like any of Cisco's IP phones. Cius was optimized to provide business communications in a campus setting over Wi-Fi, just like Cisco's Wi-Fi phones, except Cius could do video as well. Cius (via its docking station) was a VDI terminal, just like Cisco's VXC 6000. Oh, and it could run apps--Cisco apps, partners' apps, Android apps. Cius wasn't a tablet that happened to be engineered to support business-grade voice and video communications. It was an IP endpoint that happened to run apps.
When Cisco first announced Cius, back in June 2010, this was a differentiator. At that point the first generation of Apple's iPad had only been shipping for a couple months. Granted, the general derision that first met Apple's announcement of a tablet had already quieted in the face of 300,000 units selling on the first day it was released, then sales registering in the millions within a matter of weeks. But the first iPad had no camera, so video conferencing was out of the question. It couldn't even be used to place phone calls. For the user wanting a tablet that could double as a phone and video conferencing device, Cius was everything iPad wasn't in 2010. But then came 2011. iPad 2, with its cameras, faster processor, and ability to support real-time communications apps, was released in March. Cius would not become generally available until July. Six months later Cisco reported that more than 1,100 companies purchased Cius devices, "with some buying thousands of units." But by this time iPad 2 sales numbered in the millions, and the device could clearly serve as a platform for real-time communications applications in a way the first generation of iPads could not.
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