It's not quite an iPad - or better yet, the iPad isn't quite this.
Cisco CEO John Chambers today unveiled the Cisco Cius, a "mobile collaboration tablet that delivers virtual desktop integration with anywhere, anytime access to the full range of Cisco collaboration and communication applications, including HD video." (Pronounced "See-us")
At 1.15 lbs., the device is an ultra-portable tablet that's targeted at market segments that can benefit from real-time, video-based collaboration. It's fully interoperable with telepresence tools, offers HD video streaming, multi-party conferencing, email, messaging, browsing and the ability to produce, edit and share content stored either locally or on the cloud. It features a front-mounted 720p HD camera that refreshes at up to 30 frames per second. It's WiFi-enabled, comes with an accelerometer, has a detachable battery and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera.
On the software side, it's built on Google's Android OS, which makes it an open platform for communication and collaboration. Out of the gate, it's compatible with Cisco's suite of business software tools. It's designed to be able to connect mobile employees with the right people and right content from within the network.
Ah, the network. And video. And business collaboration tools. These are the areas where Cisco has been putting its efforts behind in recent years.
Almost immediately, some of the tweets out of the Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas, where Chambers used the keynote stage to introduce it, started issuing "Watch out, iPad" warnings. But that may be too much of a leap to take - at least at this point in the game.
The Cius doesn't appear to be a consumer product. Chambers wasn't demonstrating this device as a movie viewer or control center for apps. He demonstrated examples based on how students, for example, can collaborate with instructors and each other on projects or research. The company showcased how companies can use these devices to keep mobile workers in the loop far better than a mobile phone or remote access connections might.
One of my earliest criticisms of the iPad was that it was trying to be everything to everyone. Had it been pitched as a consumer entertainment device with tools for video, photos, music, books and so on, I probably would have liked it more. But I remember being less than impressed when Steve Jobs sat down at the iPad's debut and demonstrated how to hammer out an email and work on a spreadsheet.
In that sense, Cisco has done it right with the Cius. It's targeted at niche markets and enhanced for their use to make school or work that much more rewarding.
Customer trials of the device will begin in the third quarter, with general availability expected in the first quarter of 2011. Pricing details were not released.