Cisco's Android-Based Cius Tablet Aims to Oust Apple iPad

Apple's iPad tablet may have some serious competition from one of the biggest IT vendors on Earth: Networking giant Cisco today announced a new tablet PC of its own, the Cius.

Based on the Google Android operating system and targeted at business users, the new Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) Cius -- which is slated for customer trials in third quarter and full availability in the beginning of 2011 -- includes a number of features designed to appeal to on-the-go information workers.

For example, the Cius offers both front- and rear-facing 720p HD cameras to enable full video collaboration. It will also integrate with Cisco's suite of collaboration software including the Cisco Quad, WebEx and instant messaging platforms. The device is also designed to be lightweight, tipping the scale at 1.15 lbs.

During a keynote at the Cisco Live conference, Cisco CEO John Chambers described the Cius as "literally the first mobile collaboration tablet with telepresence capabilities from open standards that brings together our entire capability in terms of collaboration."

The Cius includes a docking/recharging station that resembles a traditional Cisco IP phone, complete with handset. The Cius device itself has a seven-inch screen and is Wi-Fi enabled with 802.11a/b/g/n connectivity as well as Bluetooth and 3G wireless capabilities.

Battery life is also expected to be fairly robust: According to Cisco, the Cius will run for eight hours under what it considers to be normal usage.

In addition to the Cius hardware, Chambers also announced an SDK (define) for the Cius that will enable developers to build applications tailored specifically for the device.

Target: iPad

Chambers did not specifically mention Apple or its iPad during his keynote address, though the popular iPad has established itself as the product to beat in the nascent tablet PC space, having become one of the fastest-selling products in Apple's history. Apple recently reported that it has sold 3 million iPads during the first 80 days of availability.

One key difference between the Cius and the iPad is that Apple's tablet does not have both front- and rear-facing HD cameras, though its new iPhone 4 does. Cisco's embrace of the Linux-powered Google Android operating system is also a differentiator between the Cius and the iPad, with Chambers repeatedly stressing the open, standards-based approach that the Cius is taking and the fact that it ties into Cisco's existing collaboration assets.

"Cisco Cius has the ability to capture your imagination, and say what does this mean in terms of use in business and education," Chambers said. "It's the ability to combine ... an open architecture, literally a collaborative tablet for business, and the ability to do this with telepresence and high-definition, off an open standard and open platform with Android."

Despite backing its own tablet PC, Cisco hasn't shied away from jumping on the Apple bandwagon: For instance, it provide collaboration tools for iPad users as well.

In any event, the launch marks the latest in a growing swell of new offerings from the enterprise networking and hardware giant. During his presentation, Chambers noted that over course of the last year, Cisco has introduced over 400 products, and that the company spends approximately 13 percent of its revenues on research and development aimed at keeping it moving forward.

"It isn't about moving too fast; it's about the future of moving too slow," Chambers said. "It's about understanding that market transitions wait for no one company and no one country."

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