Cisco: Enterprise Focus, Security Set Cius Apart From Tablet Crowd

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Cisco's Cius will be an enterprise game-changer because it consolidates all of a business user's most important unified communications (UC) tools, and offers them in a mobile device with built-in enterprise security. That's the key difference between the Cius and tablet market dynamos like Apple's iPad, Cisco said Wednesday: a truer enterprise-grade experience that also creates upset opportunities for Cisco solution providers focused on UC, video and virtualization.

That was the message from Cisco collaboration executives, who in a media event in New York and other locations Wednesday offered the most details yet on how Cisco will position Cius in the rapidly-crowding tablet arena.

"We believe we sunk a lot of technology into this device," said Tom Puorro, senior director, product management, collaboration solutions at Cisco. "We've designed the device to be very broad in its capabilities, and [not just designed] for a particular use case. [This is] a lot of power focused on the enterprise user."

The Cius' on-board security offerings include Cisco hardware-accelerated encryption, network security, certificate management, virtual private network, enterprise access, mobility security and policy management tools. It's the only tablet out there with built-in enterprise security, according to Puorro, and IT managers can tailor policy controls to the needs of their Cius fleets.

"They can make it very loose, or very firm," Puorro said.

Cius, which Cisco introduced a year ago to the day at Cisco Live 2010, 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 runs an Intel Atom 1.6 Ghz processor, with 32 GB of flash memory.

It's supported by Cisco's UC Manager and natively supports Cisco TelePresence, Cisco's Jabber instant messaging client, Cisco's WebEx communications software, and Cisco Quad, the vendor's social networking-flavored collaboration platform. It also supports virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), using Citrix, VMware and Wyse platforms and devices, per a previous Cisco announcement. Cius outguns even business-focused tablets like Research In Motion's PlayBook, Cisco executives said, because Cius extends the reach of Cisco's total UC offering all the way to the mobile edge.

Earlier Wednesday, Cisco debuted AppHQ, an application development platform for Cius users that in theory will allow companies better control over what business applications their Cius tablet users have access to.

Cius users can access Google's Android Marketplace as they would using any Android device. But Cisco AppHQ gives businesses the ability to both highlight and limit what applications they want their employees to use. AppHQ further has a "store within a store" function: a Cisco-hosted, private app storefront that business users can customize with their own logos, and through which they can offer specific applications to their employees based on company policy. Those controls are useful, for example, when IT managers want to direct users to applications that are pre-validated to work interoperably with Cisco platforms, and have the necessary security built in to work on their enterprise networks.

"I buy what I want for bulk licenses, and put them there for my users to consume," Purro explained. "This is not a Draconian consumer store."

The applications included in AppHQ are chosen by Cisco, which on Wednesday also said it would be expanding its Cius app development program with an announcement at the upcoming Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas, July 11-14.

Next: More Details On Cisco Cius Pricing, Availability

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