Five reasons to consider the Cius for your business

The Cisco Cius business tablet offers a unique combination of features.

The Cisco Cius tablet is targeted at businesses and is also a virtual desktop designed to access cloud computing services.

The Cisco Cius tablet is targeted at businesses and is also a virtual desktop designed to access cloud computing services.

The Cisco Cius business tablet, announced in late June, appears loaded with features to impress mobile workers from the corporation to the classroom.

Weighing 1.5 pounds with a 7-inch display and an HD Soundstation docking unit, this multifunction device looks impressive, with some features similar to those of the iPad. The Cius advertises an Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor, 32GB of flash memory, and the Android operating system, plus Wi-Fi, 3G/4G data, Bluetooth, 720p HD video, and eight-hour battery life.

But, bottom line, will the Cisco Cius be a worthy business product? Here are five smart reasons to consider it.

1. Communications and Collaboration

First, the Cius tablet features Cisco's network-centric unified communications and Quad collaboration platform. Tools include the WebEx Collaboration Cloud; Cisco TelePresence for real-time collaboration; and Cisco Quad collaboration to integrate business apps with social networking tools, such as VoIP, instant messaging, video, and calendars. Some of these apps, such as Cisco Quad and WebEx, are also available on the iPad, but Cisco plans to highlight these features on its tablet.

2. Dual Cameras

The dual cameras are another attractive feature: one forward-facing, with integrated HD at 720p that films at 30 fps (frames per second) with zoom functions; and one high resolution, 5MP rear-facing camera for 640x480 video and still image captures. With the Cius in tow, insurance adjustors could film damaged sites; real estate agents could shoot footage of properties; sales staff could video meetings and conferences; and buyers could show store management movies of the new spring line as it's displayed in a fashion show.

3. Android

Google's Android operating system and Mozilla's Firefox browser open doors to new possibilities as the list of Android apps grows. Cisco also plans to provide tools to help developers expand its Android business applications, such as Cisco Collaboration Application Protocol Interfaces (APIs) through a software developer's kit.

4. Cloud Apps

Cloud computing is on the rise and, according to some industry analysts' predictions, 40 percent of businesses will offer a blend of cloud and premise-based applications by 2012. Standard equipment on the Cius will include a virtual desktop client application, so it can perform as a thin client on any Cisco Collaboration Architecture. This means that your Cius tablet won't need resident applications because it will access these programs through the cloud; that is, Internet-based software housed in a single location.

For business, this promises lower cost, continuous availability, and more efficiency and flexibility. Software upgrades and patches can be deployed to one server only rather than individual machines, so employees always have the latest versions. Tablets can travel anywhere and the cloud follows, so apps are always available.

5. Docking

Last, the Cius docking station, called the HD Soundstation, is a nice added feature. It has 10GB IEEE, support for dual displays, USB 2.0, and Bluetooth peripherals including headset, mouse, keyboard, and HD speakers with HD audio. Neither the press release nor the Cisco Web site mention multi-readers, an SD card slot, or an internal hard drive, so we'll have to wait and see on those options. You could, of course, add a passport-style external drive to the USB port for additional storage.

As far as a company advantage, such a device only benefits employees who work part-time in the field and part-time in the office, where they can dock the tablet to use a larger screen, keyboard, and a full-size mouse. However, anyone who sits at a desk all day will admit that their productivity can diminish when working on a tablet, notebook, or netbook full time. For office duty, it's more efficient to have a docking station with the full-sized keyboard, screen, and mouse.

Many tablets have some or all of these features, including the iPad. For example, the iPad is comparable to the Cius in size and weight; the Dell Streak also has dual cameras, one front-facing and one 5 megapixel still image camera with LED flash; and Fujitsu's LifeBook TH700 also has Gigabit Ethernet, integrated wireless Bluetooth, plus a host of other features.T here are over a dozen manufacturers releasing tablet PCs this year, including Research in Motion, Adobe, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung, and even Google. You might want to wait a bit longer and review all your options (including the still-unknown price of the Cius) before making a company-wide decision.

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Julie Sartain

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