Cisco Begins Sales Of Cius Tablet Through Partners


More details have emerged on Cisco Cius, the Android-based tablet expected to be a key piece of Cisco's UC and collaboration strategy, and how it will be sold through channel partners.

Cius was first announced last June at Cisco Live, and its Wi-Fi model was made available to partners on March 31. Exact Cius pricing has not yet been confirmed, but according to a statement from Cisco to CRN, "pricing structures are expected to support targeted end-user pricing ranging to below $700 for volume purchases."

Cisco Cius is available from Cisco Master and Advanced Unified Communications partners, according to the vendor, and priority availability is for what Cisco describes as "early field trial" (EFT) customers.

"These customers have both innovative and broad-based use cases and their Wi-Fi environments have been validated against the Cisco Experience Assurance Program by our partners," said Richard McLeod, senior director, collaboration, Worldwide Partner Organization, at Cisco. "We have seen an overwhelming interest in our EFT program, and we are prioritizing these customers who have validated environments for Cius and pre-qualified use cases."

At the time of its announcement, many VARs saw definite enterprise potential in Cius, especially with Cisco positioning it as an endpoint for video and UC systems.

The 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 and other features. It's supported by Cisco's UC Manager and also supports Cisco collaboration products like Quad, WebEx and Presence.

As first reported by the blog Wireless Goodness, Cius popped up in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) listings for the first time on March 30. The documents were submitted by OpenPeak, a touchscreen device and device management vendor in whom Intel is an investor, confirming OpenPeak's role on the manufacturing end of the Cius release.

McLeod told CRN that Cius' release is on schedule. Cisco has also been actively working on extending its Cisco Developer's Network (CDN) to Android developers and independent software vendors (ISV), McLeod said, and Cisco will be announcing the results of those efforts soon. The Cius will initially run Android version 2.2, also known as Froyo.

"Cisco is committed to updating the version of Cius' Android OS when we deem there are feature benefits in the new release to our enterprise customers and when the new release is made publicly available by Google," McLeod told CRN. "Since Cius is an enterprise-class device, and not a consumer-oriented tablet, any new release we take on shall go through a special testing and verification process to ensure that the stability, security and performance of the device and the apps running on it are not compromised in support of our enterprise customers' requirements."

Cisco VARs said they have been champing at the bit to get ahold of Cius, especially those who look at tablets and mobile device infrastructure as emerging opportunities. Some expressed frustration that Cius hasn't become generally available yet.

"It's taking a lot longer than I would have expected by now," said a senior executive at a national Cisco partner, who asked his name not be used. "This is a big opportunity for partners because when you start seeing business-class tablets in use, that means you also have industrial strength applications for use with them. Cius seems like it is going to be part of that ecosystem and that's exciting."

The potential tablet play in enterprises is profound, said Mont Phelps, president and CEO of NWN, a Waltham, Mass.-based solution provider. NWN is among fast-growth solution providers that have expanded via acquisition, and in NWN's case, it recently beefed up its application development services through a pickup of Microsoft Gold partner ComFrame.

"I think the tablet is going to change the way work is done, more profoundly than the laptop did," Phelps said. "It'll change where the work is done, change how the work is done and who does it, and also create a lot of opportunity for infrastructure on the back to end to support all of these things. Positioning for the tablet revolution, which is where the work's going to be done, positions us with a different form factor and also exceedingly well for the cloud."