Cisco Cius: Death by iPad

Cisco discontinued development of its Cius tablet for the enterprise; BYOD and poor planning contributed to the failure of Cisco's Cius tablet for the enterprise user.

Since Apple first released the iPad, many vendors have tried to win a share of the business tablet market. Cisco tried to give the iPad a run for its money with the release of the Cisco Cius, a mobile collaboration tablet for business use. Now less than two weeks before Cisco's annual enterprise IT conference, Cisco Live 2012, the company announced that it will no longer invest in Cius tablet development, effectively killing the product.

The company will not make any further enhancements to the current version of the Cius tablet. But it "will continue to offer Cius in a limited fashion to customers with specific needs or use cases," wrote Cisco senior vice president O. J. Winge in a Cisco blog post last week. Cisco is giving up on the Cius due to BYOD and other market transitions, said Winge.

Cisco Cius tablet: No differentiation, too expensive

Cisco failed to differentiate the Cius tablet -- which the company had positioned as both an enterprise iPad alternative and an IP endpoint -- from similar tablets and collaboration hardware devices, said Brian Riggs, research director for Current Analysis.

"The Cius tablet has fallen victim over the past year to tablets like the iPad that can do basically what Cius was doing, like voice and video, and are able to do it increasingly well," Riggs said. "I don’t think the adoption numbers were there."

The Cius tablet did not stand a chance in overtaking the iPad thanks to its high price tag, said Philippe Winthrop, managing director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation in Boston. The list price of the Cius is $750, but that does not include the optional docking station that turns the tablet into a full IP endpoint.

"Why would [users] pay thousands for something they can get for $500?" said Winthrop. "Nobody wants to spend that much on hardware that is different by only one piece of software."

Even on the IP endpoint side of the market, the Cius was very expensive compared with other vendors' desk phones that are capable of voice and video in an enterprise campus environment, Riggs said.

The Cius may have failed because it was one piece of hardware trying to be everything: an IP telephone, a video conferencing terminal, and a tablet running Android applications. "There were not enough enterprises saying 'we need $750 telephones for 1,000 of our employees,' when many employees are simply bringing in their own tablets," Riggs said. 

The Cius tablet: Dead on arrival?

The Cius tablet never had a chance. By the time Cisco launched it, Apple was already preparing its third-generation iPad, Riggs said. Had Cisco capitalized on the fact that the first iPad could not be used as a phone and did not have a camera for video conferencing, the Cius may have won some more customers, Riggs noted.

"By the time the Cius tablet was out, users already were using the tools that they liked in the consumer space for business -- like the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy tablet," said Robert Harris, president of Communications Advantage, Inc.

The research and development cycle for consumer devices is exponentially quicker than that of corporate communication products, Riggs pointed out. Cisco's product development cycle, like many IT vendors, is traditionally slower.

More news on Cisco Cius:

Does Cisco Cius compare with the iPad?

Enterprise IT watch blog: the Cius tablet

Cisco and AT&T partner to sell the Cius tablet

Is there room for enterprise tablets? What about enterprise software for BYOD tablets?

While BYOD may have, in part, hindered adoption of the Cius tablet, the tablet offered unique features -- like mobile audio, video and virtual desktop -- that made it a fine niche UC endpoint, said Michael Brandenburg, industry analyst of unified communications for Frost & Sullivan Inc. But it was never going to compete directly with the iPad. 

"The tablet market is a high volume business, so specialized devices are likely to struggle to find a piece of the market-- even if they are not trying to compete directly in it," he said.

The Cius wasn't the only enterprise tablet on the market. Avaya introduced the Flare tablet for communication and collaboration around the same time. Avaya has since introduced the Avaya Flare communicator, an application available for the iPad. Avaya's intent for building its own hardware was to stabilize the experience for the user, while eventually moving it to other devices, Harris said, noting that Cisco's error was in trying to sell only its hardware.

"People like their iPads, and users didn't understand a device that was trying to compete with a tablet already embraced by consumers," Harris said.

Cisco should partner with other vendors to get its software onto more popular devices, added Harris. "Both Avaya and Cisco should aim for their products to work with tablets from specific vendors -- like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy -- and have strong partnerships with manufacturers."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.

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