news The nation’s largest telco Telstra late last week confirmed it had started offering Cisco’s low-profile Cius Android tablet to customers as a complement to their corporate unified communications platforms.
The tablet shares a number of specifications with the current flock of consumer-focused Android tablets, shipping with a 7″ touchscreen running at a resolution of 1280×720 pixels, 802.11 b, g and n Wi-Fi support, mini-USB and HDMI ports and a camera than can record 720p HD video.
However, where the likes of the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Acer Iconia Tab and so on are aimed at the same consumer market which Apple’s iPad has been so successful in, Cisco’s tablet falls on the other side of the fence. Cisco aims to use the device to complement its existing strengths in the corporate unified communications market, with the Cius being another endpoint for accessing corporate directories, placing and receiving calls and engaging in instant messaging and videoconferencing sessions. Advanced functions such as desktop virtualisation and integration with Cisco’s high-end TelePresence suites are also supported.
The tablet launched in Australia through Cisco a few months ago, but has a second opportunity to gain scale through the Telstra relationship unveiled last week.
In a statement issued last week, Telstra executive director Philip Jones said the tablet would assist businesses in their drive to remain better connected. “Telstra is now able to offer organisations a built-for-business tablet to keep workers connected so they can collaborate not just by email but also via IP telephony and even TelePresence away from their desk,” he said.
“Telstra’s experience and our close alliance with Cisco means organisations choosing the CIUS tablet from us can get the implementation and support they need, including management of UC applications at server level, identifying the CIUS applications relevant for their business, upgrading core systems as required, wireless LAN implementation and technical support. The CIUS Wi-Fi is the latest addition to Telstra’s Unified Communications offering and is designed to work with organisations’ latest Cisco Unified Communications platform.”
So far, Cisco has not announced any Australian customers for the Cius, although it has a number of major corporate customers who are likely to be trialling the tablet. Some of the household names which maintain Cisco unified communications infrastructure include Qantas and Westpac. A spokesperson for Telstra said the telco was currently piloting the Cius with its customers, but none had yet been announced.
Cisco’s main rival in the unified communications space, Avaya, also announced a tablet last year, but has likewise not announced any local customers. The corporate tablet market is currently dominated by the Apple iPad, despite ongoing efforts by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion to steal market share by Cupertino in the area. Telstra also markets Motorola’s Xoom to the corporate market.
Not only do I not expect Cisco’s Cius tablet to get anywhere in Australia, I expect Australian organisations to follow Jetstar’s lead over the next several years and begin actively removing physical telephony infrastructure from their workers’ desks over the next several years and deploying softphones instead.
Cisco’s promotion of the Cius will likely earn it a few early adopter customers, but I don’t expect any widespread rollouts of the tablet, except in a few specialised environments, perhaps — such as restricted environments like the Department of Defence — where the growing trend towards BYO computing will not be tolerated to the same extent as it will be in more open organisations.
In general, I would expect much of the unified computing aspect of Cisco’s offerings to undergo a radical change over the next few years. The company’s current UC business model — where organisations pay it through the nose to buy a stack of infrastructure, which their staff then use — is going to start looking quite out of date shortly.
Cisco’s new main competitor in the UC market may just be Microsoft’s purely software-based Lync platform, which I’m seeing high degrees of interest from right around Australia. At the end of the day, telephony in 2011 is just a software application … or at least, it should be.
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