Cisco got into the tablet market Wednesday by launching its Cisco Cius, a mobile tablet computer that is specifically designed for enterprise users.
What makes this new device interesting is that Cisco has said that it doesn't want the device to be perceived as a consumer device or as a direct competitor to the popular Apple iPad. Rather, the Cius is tailored strictly for the business user and can be seen as "complimentary" to the Apple tablet. In particular, Cisco has designed the tablet to revolve around its enterprise collaboration technology, including its TelePresence video conferencing technology and its WebEx Web conferencing and meeting applications.
So with all this in mind, let's take a look at what the Cius offers business users and how it differs from the iPad.
Size and weight: The Cius is physically smaller than the iPad and its 7-inch diagonal screen is significantly smaller than the iPad's 9.7-inch diagonal screen. Despite its smaller size, the Cius weighs the same as the iPad at 1.5 lbs.
Connectivity: While we don't yet know what carrier will be supporting the Cisco Cius, Cisco has said that the tablet will feature 3G connectivity at the outset and 4G connectivity later on. Whether this means that the Cius will work over WiMAX or LTE is currently unknown, since we don't know what carrier it will use. The device also supports Wi-Fi standards 802.11 a, b, g and n.
Memory and processing power: The Cius has 32GB of flash memory, which is the same amount of memory as the iPad's medium offering (Apple also offers iPads with 16GB and 64GB of flash memory). In terms of processing power the Cius's 1.GHz Intel Atom processor has the iPad's 1GHz A4 processor beat.
Applications: As mentioned earlier, the Cius was designed as a showcase for all of Cisco's favorite enterprise applications, including its native VPN client, TelePresence video conferencing, WebEx SaaS for streamlining business processes and Cisco Quad collaboration platform that integrates social networking tools with enterprise tools such as calendar, VoIP and instant messaging. Of course, some of these apps are already available on the iPad as well, but on the Cius they're taking center stage.
In addition to having access to native apps on the Cius, users will also have access to the Android Market application store, where they can download as many third-party apps as they desire.
Operating system and browser: Cisco's tablet runs on Google's popular Android operating system, which has taken the mobile world by storm over the past three years. The iPad, predictably, runs on Apple's equally popular iPhone OS. Mozilla's Firefox is the default Web browser on the Cius while Apple's Safari is the default Web browser on the iPad.
Cameras: The best advantage that the Cius has over the iPad from an enterprise perspective is that it comes installed with a forward-facing HD video camera that films at 720 pixels and 30fps and streams it over the web for video conferencing. The device also has a rear-facing 5MP camera that can shoot 640x480-pixel video as well.
The bottom line: The Cius may not offer the same level of fun that the iPad offers to consumers, but from an enterprise perspective it looks like a very strong device. It will be interesting to see how well Cisco succeeds in getting businesses to adopt it.