End Of The Line: The All-Too-Short History Of Cisco's Cius12:30 PM EST Tue. May. 29, 2012
All in all, it's a nifty device.
Cisco's Cius weighs 1.5 pounds, includes a front-mounted 720p HD camera, a 7-inch VGA touch-target display, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, 8 hours of battery life and an accelerometer, among other features. It's an Android tablet, and it was intended as Cisco's major mobile device play, purpose-built and feature-loaded for business users with demanding on-the-go UC and collaboration usage needs.
But after two years of exciting Cius highs and frustrating lows, Cisco has put the tablet out to pasture. Following last week's late-breaking announcement that Cisco will no longer invest in the Cius, here are 10 milestones in the tablet's all-too-short history.
Cisco took the wraps off the Cius in June 2010 at its annual Cisco Live event and, right away, Cisco solution providers saw the business potential in the device. Granted, Apple's iPad (left) was at that point beginning its breakthrough -- particularly in the enterprise -- and the pressure was on every vendor from Hewlett-Packard to Cisco to Samsung to Acer to come up with a comparable tablet play. Above all, Cisco partners saw the Cius as a "makes sense" move for Cisco: a business-class Android tablet that would be the ultimate mobile endpoint for Cisco UC.
A few months after the Cius was first announced, Cisco made another key product launch directly related to maximizing the Cius' potential as a mobile device: the Cisco Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (VXI), a desktop virtualization and optimization platform. The Cius was teed up at the time as one of several "virtualization experience client" devices, and the announcement marked the first instance of Cisco committing to March 2011 as the month Cius would arrive.
When the Cius emerged in 2010, it wasn't quite clear which Cisco carrier partners were on board. Details slowly filtered out, including AT&T's announcement in May 2011 that it would carry the Cius on its HSPA+ wireless network as of fall 2011. Verizon several months earlier also had said it would sell a 4G LTE version of the Cius.
The news came shortly after Cisco confirmed sales of the Cius through Master and Advanced UC partners starting March 31, about four months before general availability began. Cisco partners had expressed frustration at what was thought to be a behind-schedule release of the tablet, even with Cisco executives saying at the time that the Cius was definitely on schedule.
During this time period, another important detail emerged: OpenPeak, the touch-screen device vendor, was revealed via Federal Communications Commission documents filed in March to be the Cius' manufacturer.
One key element intended to set the Cius apart from the legions of other tablets was App HQ, an application storefront, hosted by Cisco in the cloud, through which organizations could acquire apps that had been pretested and prevalidated to work with Cisco and Cisco partner infrastructure. Sure, Cius users could download apps via the Android marketplace as they would on any other Android mobile device. But App HQ was intended as an enterprise-centric differentiator: a platform that would help business users organize applications that would be of most use to them and then offer a way to guarantee their Cius fleets received only quality-tested, pre-approved apps for use.
At a corporate launch event in New York last June, Cisco attempted to make the case for why the Cius was different than other Android tablets and also a better fit for enterprise UC customers than the more consumer-oriented Apple iPad. (The short answer included pumped-up on-board security and full integration with Cisco-oriented infrastructure.)
Other details slipped out, too, including that $750 was the estimated street price for the Wi-Fi-only version of the tablet, without volume and other partner discounts taken into account. Some partners scowled at the fact that the Cius docking station was sold separately from the actual Cius at a price of about $400.
Global Cius availability for Cisco partners finally began July 31, the last day of Cisco's fiscal year 2011. Some partners see that significant delay -- the general availability date came more than a year after the tablet was first unveiled at Cisco Live -- as one of the key reasons Cius failed to catch on with customers.
Richard McLeod, senior director of collaboration sales in Cisco's Worldwide Partner Organization, described collaboration as the "partner investment opportunity of the decade" in a November 2011 interview with CRN, pegging the segment at a $42 million total addressable market before many services opportunities were added on.
At the time, Cisco also updated its now nearly two-year-old Collaboration Breakaway program, which provides incentives to Cisco salespeople and Cisco partners to displace competitive UC and collaboration systems, to include the Cius. Cisco specifically was offering 10 Cius devices for the price of five and a net discount of 83 percent on those devices when ordered with a minimum of 100 Cisco IP phones.
By fall 2011, speculation was beginning to mount about the ultimate fate of the Cius, especially because Cisco hadn't yet released any hard numbers about how well the tablet was doing, and partners weren't exactly shouting from the rooftops about their spreadsheet-destroying Cius numbers.
Still, Cisco put a good face on the Cius, and in December 2011, Chuck Fontana, Cisco Cius product manager, told news outlets that Cius adoption had "met our expectations" and that Cisco would be releasing both larger and smaller versions of the tablet in the new year.
CRN was among those who noticed a conspicuous Cius absence at Cisco's rock-em, sock-em Partner Summit in San Diego last month: namely, any extended mention of the Cius, or any Cisco executives using -- or at the very least touting -- the Cius in the way you'd expect a company trying to evangelize a struggling mobile device to do. With Cisco's major UC and collaboration announcements of recent months focusing almost squarely on its increasingly popular Jabber platform (left), the die was apparently cast.
Cius investment will stop, Cisco confirmed this month, although it will continue to support Cius customers.
O.J. Winge, Cisco senior vice president, TelePresence Technology Group, wrote in a May 24 blog post: "Moving forward, we intend to double down on software offerings, like Jabber and WebEx, that provide the anytime, anywhere and any-device experiences. We will leverage key learnings and key collaboration experiences native to Cius in our other collaboration products."