Announced a year ago, the Android-based Cius tablet from Cisco Systems finally has a shipping date: July 31. But already, you're seeing many in the blogosphere parroting Cisco's marketing, passing on the company's claims about the virtues of this unreleased, untested product. (To be fair, there are critics in the media, too.)
It may be that the Cius will be a great tablet. But it could also be a disappointment, as so many Android tablets trumpeted by the tech media have turned out to be when they finally reach users.
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In the case of the Cius, several warning signs indicate that this product could be a dud and that everyone should reserve judgment until it ships.
First, the product is based on the smartphone version of Android (2.2 Froyo), not the tablet version (3.1 Honeycomb). Previous Froyo-based Android tablets have been major disappointments, and Google warned manufacturers not to use it for tablets. With Honeycomb available for several months now, why is Cisco shipping the Cius with an operating system designed for a very different product?
Second, the Cius has been promised for a year, but it kept getting delayed. That's never a good sign for a product, often indicating development problems. It also is a bad sign that Cisco hasn't really shown anyone this tablet outside of very controlled demos. Trust me, the demos almost never tell the real story.
Third, the Cius is really a specialty product meant to promote Cisco videoconferencing, which means it is not likely to be a useful tablet for most people. The very idea that you'll want a tablet optimized for one company's videoconferencing products (WebEx and the superpricey TelePresence service) is, well, strange. Why would a company pay $750 plus thousands of dollars more for the management software and $400 or so per user for the PBX dock for Cisco-specific tablets when it could get the larger-screen (10 inches versus 7) iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets for less and be able to use WebEx and competing videoconferencing services, as well as a whole gamut of tablet apps?
Maybe if you're an all-Cisco environment that has invested in the conferencing backbone and management tools, you're willing to spend $1,150 per user for what is essentially a video phone, but even then I doubt it. The disaster that is the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook should be a warning to any company that tries to use tablets as captive extensions to their proprietary technology.
I hope my skepticism is unwarranted. But I've seen this script play out many times before, and the ending is usually not good. Before you get excited about the Cius, wait to see what it actually is and does and what it really costs.
This article, "Why you should be skeptical of the Cisco Cius," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.