Of course, much is also (vaguely) made of secure mobile computing, even though the Cius is based on Android, whose "Honeycomb" 3.0 version is the only Android OS that gets anywhere close to enterprise-class mobile security or management capabilities. But Cisco is using Android "Froyo" 2.2, designed for smartphones rather than tablets and with little in the way of management or security capabilities. Unless Cisco has added a lot of its own technology to fill in the gaps, it's hard to see how the Cius would be as securable or manageable as an iPad or even a Motorola Xoom.
In its limited product descriptions, Cisco repeatedly refers to one secret security sauce, but it's the same one everyone else is pitching: the use of virtual desktop technology, which enables the tablet to function as a front end to a Windows instance safely within a data center's walls. Such thin client apps are old news to iOS users, and they're not exactly a new development for Android, either. Plus, Citrix and EMC VMware promise to provide clients for other mobile OSes that appear to be headed for popularity. This advantage is one that any viable tablet contender will have.
Cisco says it is ramping up production, so it's possible we'll see units in the wild later this year and can assess whether this is just a niche product for companies using Cisco communications systems or something with greater applicability. It does have more potential than rival Avaya's Flare videoconferencing slate, a one-trick-pony product.
MeeGo: A project or a product?
The open source committee that has been working on the MeeGo standard hopes to have version 1.2 ready for discussion at its May 23-25 meeting in San Francisco, and it released a "pre-alpha" version of its UI nine days ago. However, there are rumors of MeeGo tablets shipping in midyear.
No way that will happen, unless they are the kind of ultrapremature products like the first Android tablets. Intel earlier this year showed off an early-stage prototype, which may explain the rumors of an imminent product -- fanboy sites often can't distinguish between concepts and products.
In February, Nokia's new CEO said it would use MeeGo for experimental products, suggesting it is not part of any real product strategy but simply a conceptual tool. Although Intel remains engaged in MeeGo, Intel is also involved in Android and other mobile fronts -- the chipmaker is desperately looking for a way into the mobile market, whose products use ARM chips instead of Intel ones. Intel has always experimented with new technologies, particularly to help identify future markets, so Intel's MeeGo activities shouldn't be given too much significance.
If there are any real, serious product plans around MeeGo, they're well-kept secrets. The slow pace of MeeGo's development doesn't support the notion of commercially viable products in the one coming year and maybe not even in 2012.
This article, "The forgotten tablets: Whatever happened to Cius and MeeGo?," 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.