Last summer, when everybody and his brother was announcing Android tablets for the Christmas buying season -- never mind that Google didn't even have a tablet version of the Android OS in beta -- the Android racing form saw a surprise entry from Cisco Systems, a company not exactly known for computing devices. It announced a business tablet (whatever that means) called the Cius last July and has remained fairly quiet about it ever since.
Remember the Cius, cited by many as an example of Cisco's prowess in entering new markets? (Oops. As recent events show, Cisco was all bark, no bite in that department.)
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Earlier this week, Gartner released its tablet market share predictions for the next four years with some very interesting -- and I think largely guess-based -- predictions for 2015. I agree in its omission of Windows tablets (that dog has died), I suspect it's overly optimistic about the chances for the undersized, poorly reviewed, BlackBerry-dependent PlayBook tablet, and I'm ambivalent about its prediction that HP's forthcoming WebOS tablets will gain traction at some point. There are simply too many variables to predict how that last bet will turn out.
But the shocker was to see MeeGo tablets as one of the top five tablet platforms in 2015, albeit with just 1 percent market share. Maybe Gartner wanted a nice round number of entries.
Remember MeeGo? It was Nokia's answer to the iPad's iOS, an open source platform that Intel signed up to support and in which it now appears to be the major investor, given Nokia's uncertain tablet direction. (Oops again.)
Well, unlike so many premature product announcements, neither the Cius nor MeeGo has disappeared into the "we never said that" parallel universe of revisionist history. But neither has much solidity to it, either. Both live in netherworlds, at least right now.
The Cius: A niche communications tablet?
Cisco says it began shipping in very limited quantities its seven-inch Cius to some business customers this month, in what appears to be a final beta stage, though Cisco won't call it that. The Cius also is presented in a very different light: less of a stand-alone tablet à la the iPad and more as an extension of Cisco's telephony services. The company's details on the Cius are sketchy to say the least, but the sole image I can find on its site is of a office phone that the Cius docks into, and much is made of the Cius's voice and video interoperability and of secure social messaging. Other Cisco products' data sheets refer to the Cius as a "mobile collaboration device" such as for videoconferencing.