The iPad may be trouncing the tablet competition in the enterprise sector to date, but Cisco is poised to release the Android-based Cius tablet on July 31. The device is highly focused on the enterprise and designed to deliver virtual desktop integration with a range of Cisco collaboration and communication applications.

The Cius, which is Wi-Fi only at this point, will come to market at about $750, much higher than the iPad. But it also comes with integrated enterprise-targeted services such as Cisco TelePresence, Cisco WebEx meeting applications, Cisco Quad social software and Cisco Jabber messaging.

Cisco is pushing the device as one that mobile workers can use instead of desktops, because of the virtual desktop integration as well as flexible computing options with cloud-based services. Cisco said that the tablets will provide dramatically lower capital costs and costs per user for desktop maintenance. The 7-inch Cius runs Android 2.2 and weighs 1.5 pounds.

Cisco also is introducing a developer platform for the Cius dubbed AppHQ, which is designed to enable IT personnel to create, manage and deploy tablet apps within their companies. Cisco will allow businesses to host their own private app stores complete with corporate logos and icons in the AppHQ storefront. In addition, IT managers will be able to control which employees can download specific apps and grant access to apps based on type, source and category. Each application within the AppHQ storefront will go through validation testing.

"On the surface, the Cius and the new AppHQ look like Cisco is just jumping on the tablet bandwagon, like so many other vendors," noted Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala in an e-mailed statement. "However, Cisco's corporate-first focus is critical to its success with both products. Yankee Group's 2011 IT Decision-Maker Survey reveals that implementing mobile-enabled applications accessible on handheld devices is the No. 1 initiative for companies over the next year. With mobile apps as a top priority for enterprise IT, Cisco's news today should make a big splash."

One main feature that Cisco has been touting is the Cius’s video capabilities. The Cius comes with a front-mounted 720p HD camera that refreshes at up to 30 frames per second; a 7-inch, high-resolution, widescreen super VGA touch-target display for real-time and streamed video; and single-button TelePresence interoperability that can be used either when the tablet is docked or being used remotely via Wi-Fi.

Palomar Pomerado Health was cited by Cisco as an early adopter of the Cius. Palomar Chief Information Officer Orlando Portale said in a statement that the Cius provides doctors with "a better collaboration tool with access to real-time data, regardless of location, in order to help them make more timely decisions." Palomar has built an app called Medication Information, Anytime, Anywhere that can pull patient records from different facilities on demand and enable doctors to consult via e-mail and video conference as they view a patient's information.

Enterprises such as CDW, Nervecentre Software, Nottingham University Hospitals, University of Wisconsin–Whitewater and Verizon also are early Cius customers.

Unlike the smartphone market where workers are bringing in their own devices, corporations tend to purchase tablets for their employees. As such, the higher price point of the device — which is justified by the number of features it offers that enterprises already use — doesn’t matter as much. The device still is cheaper than laptops, which is the market that Cisco really is attacking. Moreover, the Cius will come with 4G data services, including an HSPA+ version from AT&T Wireless and an LTE version from Verizon Wireless later this year.

A few drawbacks of the device I see, however, include the fact that it is running a single-core chip released a year ago (one capable of 1080p video), while competitors Xoom and the GalaxyTab are all using dual-core ARMS. Android 2.2 also is suspect on tablets, but there is an expectation that the Cius will be upgraded to Android 3.0, the platform designed specifically for tablets. But it’s unclear when that will happen.

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