Zeus on Cius
I would expect initial sales of the new Cisco device to be targeted at specific verticals like healthcare and education to build up the installed base, and the Android factor could really help Cisco attract developers.
On Tuesday at the Cisco Live show, Cisco unveiled its latest collaboration device. The new Cisco device called the Cius (pronounced see-us and rhymes with Zeus) is a tablet that can dock into a base station and can act as video phone. When undocked the device operates as a tablet computer that can be carried around and shared between workers. From the demo itself, the details were relatively scarce but here’s what I've gathered and its implications to Cisco.
The device itself is actually a pretty cool looking tablet. It seems to be fairly slim and would make a great portable communications device for hospitals, field workers, teachers, etc and puts the Cisco logo in front of many people that do not know who Cisco is. To me, this device is the first real sign that Cisco is ready to start building more consumer or realistically for Cisco, prosumer devices that can actually raise Cisco's overall brand awareness (which has been an ongoing goal for the company). Products like the Linksys routers and Scientific Atlanta set top boxes don’t do that. Cisco's had some attempts before (like their "iphone" I blogged about earlier ) that were less than successful, but this device may actually be the start of many other devices Cisco hits the market with.
From what I understand, the tablet isn't really meant to be a replacement for a laptop or an iPad type of tablet. It's a communications-centric tablet that can provide an easy interface into vertically specific applications (they showed an attendance application for teachers in the demos), make videoconferencing portable and create a new way for people to interact with one another. I see the main use of the Cius being centered on visual communications and not productivity applications like word processing and spreadsheets. If that's the case, the device will be geared towards campus type workers that need quick access to information. A nurse, teacher, doctor, field worker, etc are all great targets for this. Traditional corporate workers probably won’t be a main focus as this device would augmentative to a laptop, not a replacement for one. I would expect initial sales of this device to be targeted at specific verticals like healthcare and education to build up the installed base.
The device is powered by the Android operating system. In my mind this was a huge part of the announcement and again, is a small indicator that changes are in the works there. If this had been the Cisco of the few years ago would the company have chosen to build its own interface? Maybe--in fact likely, knowing its history. But I think Cisco realizes that much of the stuff it makes is geared to the IT pro who has a whole different level of technical proficiency so the overcomplicated interfaces didn’t matter as much. Android is a key to the success of Cius and I'd like to see Cisco do this more. The likelihood of developers building applications for an Android-based Cisco device is much higher than developers creating applications for a Cisco operating system. If Cisco had gone down this path for the interface for its IP phones might we have a bunch of applications that run on Cisco IP phones? I don't think we'd have an appstore full of them, but I'm sure we would have more than we do now.