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At What Price Does the Cisco Cius Become a Real Tablet Contender?

Cisco has been cagey about what price its Cius will cost when it is released next month. What do you think it should be?

Give credit where credit's due: as it prepares to finally launch the Cius next month, I think Cisco has done a pretty good job so far of avoiding the pitfalls encountered by other tablet makers in their attempt to unseat the iPad, zagging where others zigged.

While every major tablet so far has stuck with the battery-sipping, tried-and-tested ARM architecture, the Android-based Cius will be the first to use an Intel chip, reportedly a dual-core Atom 'Moorestown' chip.

That will make it initially harder to get drawn into a cost-of-components or speeds-and-feeds comparison with other Android tablets like the Xoom or the Galaxy Tab, though not impossible.

Moreover, while other vendors went big on marketing their tablets at the wider consumer market with unproven results so far, Cisco, like Avaya with its Flare tablet, appears set to stay in its comfort zone of targeting enteprise IT managers.

Check out the marketing page for the Cius, which talks up the tablet's integration with Cisco networking gear and phones. Worthy stuff that will get your network administrator hot and bothered (example: "Cisco Compatible Extensions (CCX) powered wireless communications device, optimized to work with a Cisco Wireless LAN infrastructure") but will cure the insomnia of the average iPad purchaser.

Cisco also says the Cius is "unlikely" to ever hit retail shelves. All in all, the vendor is unabashedly abashed, tamping down expectations around the Cius in order to avoid the iPad express.

Probably the cleverest thing Cisco has done in this regard is remain cagey about Cius' final price tag.

No doubt it has taken lessons from rival Avaya, which will reportedly charge $2,500 for the Flare hardware, which it calls a "desktop video device", and $1,500 for the software.

No Jitter called that "a truly...well...not-smart price... it's only $1,000-$1,200 too expensive." I can't help but agree.

With its original ~$1,000 price panned by the market, a Cisco executive threw out a $700 price for the Cius in May to test the market's reaction.

While $700 wasn't widely criticized the way the Motorola Xoom's $599 was, I see it as less a vote of confidence in the Cius and more of a lack of mindshare for the Cius today.

Is the Cius' better videoconferencing worth several hundred dollars - or more- in price over the iPad and other tablets?

I think that Cisco could cut the the entry-level price of the Cius to the iPad's $500 and make it up either on requirements like maintenance contracts or tasty options like secure enterprise video. That would make the Cius appear like better value to workers/business execs, who, even if they don't buy/choose the tablets themselves, have increasing say in enterprises over what gear they are issued.

Meanwhile, the true TCO is hidden to all but the IT managers/CIOs who really need to know.

What do you think the Cisco Cius should cost, and why?

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