Cisco Cius Tablet Set For Release

In June of 2010, Cisco CEO John Chambers announced the Cius, an Android based tablet that was supposed to be the first enterprise grade tablet. Fast forward to 2011 and the Cius still is not yet generally available, but that's about to change.

Cisco today announced that the Cius will become generally available in July and will include a new enterprise AppHQ component for the delivery of mobile applications. Cisco is trying to differentiate the Cius from consumer tablets like the Apple iPad as well as other Android tablets by providing enterprise grade collaboration, security and applications. The device isn't just a tablet, it can also be docked with a phone and a keyboard as well.

"It's not really just a tablet, it's more than that" Tom Puorro, Director of Product Management at Cisco said during a live event launching the Cius. "It's about virtualized desktop, it's about enterprise class telephony it's about having all the features I'm used too, in a device I'm now becoming familiar with."

Puorro stressed that the Cius is not just a compute device either, but rather he sees it as a window into enterprise applications. It's also not a point product as he sees the Cius as a converged device that delivers multiple capabilities.

As to why it has taken a year for Cisco to actually bring the Cius to market, Puorro said it had to do with getting the application ecosystem ready. A critical and differentiating part of the Cius app ecosystem is Cisco's AppHQ effort. Rather than simply using the Google Android marketplace, the AppHQ is an enterprise application store. AppHQ provides enterprise with a degree of control and assurance about apps. Going a step further, AppHQ can be extended for customer storefronts that are specifically tailored for an enterprise.

In terms of the core underlying system, the Cius is powered by an open source Google Android 2.2 operating system. Cisco has chosen not to use the new Android 2.3 or the tablet specific Android 3.0 operating system that is used by Motorola and other Android tablet makers.

That said, in response to a question from InternetNews.com, Puorro noted that the Cius will be supporting the next generation Android 4.0 release, codenamed Ice Cream cone.

"This device (Cius) will support the Ice Cream version," Puorro said. "We will skip Honeycomb (Android 3) as it was an experiment for them and when they bring it back to the mainstream with 4.0, Cius will get upgraded."

Cisco isn't just including a plain vanilla implementation of Android 2.2 either. Puorro noted that Cisco has customized multiple parts of the OS to improve enterprise integration.

"We did a lot of work around real time services," Puorro said. "We've circumvented the standard call library that you would get with a Cisco call stack."

He added that Cisco also did a lot of security work as well as work on the UI to support some unique gestures that Cisco has built-into the Cius.

Puorro also fielded questions about comparisons between the Cius and the Apple iPad which currently dominates the tablet market. Puorro admitted that the Cius is a thicker device than the iPad. He noted that the additional thickness is for a removable battery and to provide better audio quality.

"On the iPad thing, you can't argue with success," Puorro said. "They make a great consumer product; we've been very diligent about messaging enterprise grade."

He added that there are people that use iPads in the enterprise and Cisco will continue to provide enterprise apps including WebEx for those users as well.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.