Cisco Cius – It’s Not about You, Unless You’re IT
Last week I attended an onsite demo of Cius at Cisco’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto, and posted about it on my blog as a preamble to this analysis, which is more specifically focused on UC. There are many angles to consider, and at this point, I’ll assume you’re familiar with the basic news items around last week’s launch. The only thing I’ll add is some really old news. Just to be sure you know, this launch is over a year in the making, and you can read my first impressions, which were posted here on the UCS portal following last year’s Cisco C-Scape event.
So, what to make of Cius? If a lot of things go right, this could truly be a game changer and validate Cisco’s vision about video being the driver for collaboration. I think this largely depends on how well the value proposition resonates with the intended audience, and that’s where Cisco is really trying to carve out a new path. When most people think of tablets, they think consumer devices, but Cisco needs you to think differently. For Cius, the audience is IT; this tablet is about them first – then the end user.
Consumer-oriented tablets are cool, fun, addictive and relatively affordable. However, they are personal use devices, with limited business utility and are used with virtually no consideration for enterprise networking requirements. They are the ultimate digital sandboxes, but run counter to what UC needs to be effective. I’m not saying that Cius was developed specifically for UC, but it’s pretty easy to see how it can be a great enabler.
Cisco’s messaging at the launch was about how video drives collaboration, and in my view this is highly analogous to UC. Yes, there are subtle differences, but if Cius succeeds, that’s good news for UC. With consumer tablets, the end user defines the experience, so there is really no success metric beyond how many units are sold. No doubt, Cisco would like to sell a lot of Cius units, but their ultimate success will be defined by other things, and that’s where I think the story gets interesting for UC.
I mentioned in my blog post that Cisco is in a unique position to succeed in the tablet space, and that’s part of the bigger picture I’m getting at. For businesses that buy into Cisco’s network-centric mantra, Cius allows them to fulfill this in an end-to-end manner. In the telecom-centric world, they could do this with Cisco’s IP phones, either at the desk or in the contact center. However, video is where the action is now, and to deliver that end-to-end solution, Cisco needs Cius.
The strongest messaging and takeaway I got from the Cius briefing was that video is now pervasive, and this tablet provides a way for IT to take back network control and provide a secure environment so end users can work with all the flexibility that IP (UC, really) has to offer. They made it clear the Cius is not a point product, and I think that’s important to stress. For anyone who thinks about the price point (around $700 without a docking station) in relation to what consumer-based tablets cost, they’re missing the point.
Cius is an enabler for UC, which is great for end users, but it also gives IT a comfort level that their network is being used to its best advantage. With all of IT’s back-end concerns addressed, Cius gives end users the freedom to use UC – and collaboration – in a endless number of ways. During the demo, they also made the point that Cius is not about Web browsing or checking email – it’s about real time collaboration and connecting with other people in more meaningful ways.
That’s a pretty attractive scenario for UC, and I think Cisco can differentiate effectively here. In my view, Cius is built from the inside-out – it’s driven by networking requirements, only after which the end user experience is considered. No other business tablet is built this way. The two main players have different pedigrees – Avaya’s legacy is telecom, and RIM’s is wireless data. HP is just coming to market, but none of these vendors can claim that inside-out roadmap that ends with a tablet.
I should add that there is another interesting aspect to last week’s launch. Aside from the device itself, Cisco has introduced AppHQ, which is their storefront for Cius-compatible applications. Sure, they’re stealing a page – out of necessity – from Apple, but so has every tablet vendor. However, the neat twist here is that IT has control over which apps can be used on these devices. Not only that, but enterprises can even customize and/or brand their own apps, and by extension, this makes things interesting for the third party Android developer community that Cisco is trying to build up.
The notion that Cisco is partnering with Google here may take some getting used to, but that’s the reality of today’s tech world, and it’s a great example of a marriage of convenience when you share a common enemy. That sidebar is a topic unto itself, and will leave that for another time.
I want to wrap up by saying I’m not sure yet if Cius further muddies the waters for the emerging tablet market, or if it’s providing a much-needed demarcation for everyone to define and segment this space. Tablets will never succeed in driving UC adoption if they’re viewed and used in a totally whatever manner. For businesses to adopt them as a serious productivity tool, they need a lot more certainty, and ultimately this means being network-friendly.
Cisco understands that, and if you’re a Cisco shop, Cius will probably be a no-brainer. Not only does Cius provide that secure, end-to-end connection, but it comes fully integrated with many applications that Cisco-based businesses already use, namely WebEx, Quad, Jabber and Telepresence – all of which is good news for UC, as well as help IT drive virtualization, another trend that plays into the UC story.
Of course, for everyone else, Cius may be seen as an extension of the all-Cisco world, and given the Flip saga, they may be skeptical about Cisco’s ability to succeed with video, especially with Cius being based on an older Android operating system. They may be right, and it’s very possible that businesses just aren’t ready yet to use so much video, but it’s hard to deny that when all these tools work so well together, people work much better together too. Isn’t that what we’re trying to do with UC?