With the risk of severe multi-tasking, I spend last Tuesday following not only the world cup (that’s soccer, if you’re Americans) and Google’s Marissa Mayer visit to Israel, but also CiscoLive, Cisco’s grand event in Las Vegas, where they are showcasing the latest in their product portfolio.
The most interesting thing on John Chambers keynote, in my view, was the debut of the Cisco Cius:
A 7″ touch-screen tablet? You are probably thinking “iPad killer”, or at least a killer wannabe. But IMHO Cisco is not targeting Apple at all with this move. Cisco is not really a consumer electronic centric company, but an enterprise focused one. And this makes a lot of sense when you look at it from an enterprise perspective.
There’s been a lot of debate whether the iPad and its likes are suitable for enterprise use. Well, Cisco apparently thinks they are, and calls the Cius a “business tablet”. But Cisco is also the first to provide some key features that may very well interest business users:
- Communications: Instant messaging, voice calls and video conferencing will integrate to Cisco’s unified communication infrastructure. This means you can use the Cius to connect to Telepresence rooms, video conferencing infrastructure, WebEx tools, etc.
- Fixed-to-Mobile: The Cius is dockable, so you can work with it at your desk, but also supports WiFi, 3G and 4G, so you can continue to work and communicate wherever you are.
- Virtualization: The Cius will serve as a virtual desktop for accessing Cisco’s cloud computing services.
Now Let’s Talk Video
If you’re a consumer electronic guy, or an avid gadget fan, I’m not sure if all of the above will truly excite you. After all, Apple is doing a great job selling you all the cripple, buggy iPhone4.
It comes to me with no surprise then that eyebrows were raised when the Cius was announced, as Cisco is regarded by many to be “in the business of sending bits from one place to the next“.
However, as much as this is true, Cisco is heavily invested and avidly promoting video in general and visual communications in particular, and therefore the Cius is expected, even though it came as quite a surprise.
In almost every post here I write that for visual communications to take off we need to have visual communications on every desk, in every home, in every pocket. Some call it “the democratization of video calling”. I call it a real means of communications – one that is available everywhere and to everyone.
Well, Cius is trying to do just that. Leave aside the issue of pricing and availability, this is a personal mobile video conferencing endpoint. With two cameras – a front-facing high-definition video camera (720p@30fps) and a 5-megapixel camera at the back, enough horse power and interoperability with not only Cisco products but “every industry standard“, the Cius – if all goes well, and according to Cisco’s plans – can change dramatically the visual communication landscape in the enterprise market.
The Cius in its desktop/phone docking station. Source: Cisco.
The Cius can be used anywhere – at your desk, on the go, in your living room. So it basically allows you to take video calls and initiate them with disregards to the available infrastructure or physical location. In a way, it is the very opposite of what FaceTime is, and it can be truly regarded as an “upgrade to a worker’s desktop“, not just another toy for the executive manager.
Will the Cius provide a personal solution with an executive quality? Only time will tell. It’s a matter of execution, pricing, marketing and sales – things that Cisco does very well most of the time.
In many ways the enterprise climate is more ready than ever for mass deployment of visual communications, waiting for a killer app or maybe a killer device. Cius, pronounced “See Us” BTW, may be very well that killer, and not an iPad killer. We will just have to see them – Cisco, that is – deliver on this great promise.