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Of all the products Cisco counts as critical to its collaboration strategy, it's Cius, Cisco's Android-based tablet, that remains the biggest question mark.
Following initial partner excitement around its June 2010 debut, Cisco delayed getting Cius in the hands of partners until the spring of this year. , faces an uphill battle driving acceptance of Cius among enterprise users, even with what Cisco describes as differentiated security, collaboration, application management and other enterprise-grade features.
But partners are less certain.
"I've been on the fence about Cius for a long time," said INX's Reese. "I think if you really peel back what Cisco is saying about Cius, it's that it's the device that iconifies that post-PC era for Cisco today -- you have something tangible to point to that Cisco can say, 'That's our vehicle.' Cisco is doing the right thing by positioning it as a vehicle to get people to think differently about how they're communicating rather than boiling the ocean in tablets."
Force 3's Parry said customers have shown interest in Cius, but he's had to quickly identify customers that are interested in purchasing tablets versus those who want to listen to the story of Cius as the enterprise-grade endpoint to a Cisco collaboration architecture. The former category of customer, he explained, is a discussion that revolves around Apple's mighty iPad, and looks at Cius as an also-ran tablet instead of a piece of the collaboration solution.
"We don't pitch Cius as a tablet," Parry said. "Customers will listen to the pitch and the security and the experience of [features] like VDI are different than what you get on the consumer device."
But that conversation is lost on customers that just want tablets, Parry added, and aid in how quickly the iPad seems to be catching on with business and commercial users.
Cisco itself is approaching the tablet question pragmatically, McLeod said.
"We don't think everyone's going to buy a Cius tomorrow," Cisco's McLeod said. "But if we get 10 percent of what's projected for growth in Android tablet devices, that's easily a million devices for us here in a couple of years. So we'll take our small share and focus on those rich collaboration opportunities."