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First look at Cisco Cius tablet and AppHQ platform

A year after it was first introduced, Cisco Systems has trotted out its Cisco Cius tablet again for a closer look along with a brand new platform for deploying and buying mobile apps called AppHQ. Here's a hands-on first look.
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By Rachel King, Staff Writer on
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1 of 15 Rachel King/ZDNet

Although at first glance and even on paper this tablet is reminiscent of the not-so-popular BlackBerry PlayBook, the Cisco Cius tablet actually functions quite differently. (For starters, there is a native email app that supports IMAP, POP, Exchange and more for running both personal and business accounts.)

For a more coverage about Wednesday's event, check out the announcement coverage as well as our hands-on video.

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It's also a bit bulkier than the PlayBook, and definitely thicker than the latest Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab collection. However, it fits rather perfectly into the telephone docking station its intended for as the Cius is built for teleconferencing and other work collaboration purposes.

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The Cisco Cius sports an HDMI port that can be used to turn the Cius into a virtual desktop for the nearest compatible monitor.

Another key feature on the Cius is the swappable battery. With the included battery, users can expect between six to eight hours of usage time on a single charge. The replaceable battery will double that time up to 16 hours of work time. Pricing hasn't been announced yet as to how much a spare battery will cost.

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The Cisco Cius sports a 7-inch, high-resolution display that supports multi-touch gestures. Check it out in this comparison photo with the iPhone 4 and latest version of the Nook.

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The Cius also sports a built-in SD card slot to compliment the 1GB of RAM and 32GB of eMMC flash memory.

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The Cius is pre-loaded with several of Cisco's well-known applications, including Quad (seen in this photo). Quad is sort of like Facebook for enterprise as it is a collaborative platform for departments and companies. Participants can upload status messages, links, documents and more.

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Here's an example of the Cisco Cius sitting in the telephone dock when connected via HDMI. Users can transform the Cius into a virtual desktop, porting a desktop over the cloud from a computer anywhere else in the world that is enabled to do so.

Powered by an Intel Atom 1.6GHz CPU, the performance rate on the Cius demo tablet wasn't too shabby and it's fathomable that a customer could use the tablet for such a purpose for longer durations of time.

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The Cius fits into the telephone dock seamlessly. But given how much emphasis is placed on this relationship, it would seem unfathomable to have a Cisco Cius without such a docking station. Naturally, the tablet can still be use on its own, but it wouldn't quite justify the price tag yet.

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Cisco reps dubbed the Cius as more than just a tablet or another gadget to put in our bags, but rather a device that combines others together. It's intended to function as a smartphone, computer in one.

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Here's a close-up look at AppHQ, Cisco's new application eco-system built just for this tablet (and perhaps more in the future). The app platform places way more control in the hands of developers than other tablets have so far. IT administrators can either choose to leave full range, open access to the Android Market or limit the apps available for purchasing and downloading to the Cius as they please.

However, there was not an example of this specialized version of AppHQ ready just yet.

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Mainly based on Android 2.2, the Cius is equipped several additional APIs optimized for the 720p HD video recording capabilites. The Cius sports two cameras: a 5-megapixel rear camera with 8x digital zoom and a front-facing 720p autofocus webcam with 2x digital zoom that shoots at 30fps.

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Other programs from Cisco's software suite that will be pre-loaded include WebEx (which is integrated almost everywhere on the user interface), Jabber messaging and TelePresence. Cisco also promises top-notch security measures for seamless connections when working at home, work or on 3G/4G networks.

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One of the most-touted highlights on the Cius is the video conferencing and calling capabilites. Although the picture clarity quality wasn't entirely evident during Wednesday's media event (mainly due to poor Wi-Fi connectivity), the average picture is clear and quicker than many other TelePresence options.

Additionally, call connectivity is seamless between Wi-Fi/4G connections and when plugged into the dock. Nothing should change on the display unless the user does something to enact a change.

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Again, this tablet has been made and based on Froyo, and Google Android developers have offered Cisco help and feedback while developing the device. Cisco is planning to skip Honeycomb altogether and is planning for an upgrade when Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is released.

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The Cius has already been available for ordering since March, and the first shipment went out in the last month. Although there isn't an individual price tag set yet, Cisco reps said that it will likely hover around $750 for the Wi-Fi only version. That price could drop to $650 to $700 depending on the volume of units in a order.

3G/4G-enabled editions of the Cius are expected to roll out with AT&T and Verizon later this year.

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