The Cius is dead. Long live the Cius


I don't know whether it was more of a concession or a lamentation, but Cisco last week concluded that BYOD is "the new norm" in the workplace, and it quietly declared the demise of Cius, the business tablet it rolled out a year ago. I, for one (perhaps the only one), am disappointed to see the Cius go.

Cisco's O.J. Winge wrote in a blog post May 24 that the Cius will no longer be sold, other than to a few existing customers with specific needs. "Cisco will no longer invest in the Cisco Cius tablet form factor, and no further enhancements will be made to the current Cius endpoint beyond what's available today," he wrote.

He prefaced this news by noting a variety of "market transition" forces: Today's workplace is a mix of virtual and physical spaces; employees are expressing their technology preferences; and collaboration must take place outside of walled gardens.

The truth behind these observations is undeniable. However, there is another consideration relevant to the failure of the Cius, which Winge does not address his post: price. At $750, the Cius was a high-priced device is a sea of cheaper devices that did almost the same thing, and the biggest sea elephant in the water is, of course, the iPad. To differentiate itself, the Cius came with security and other business-minded features, which sounded great to me, and we were told from the outset that it was not intended to compete with the iPad.

When the Cius quickly proved too rich for enterprise blood, some suggested that the tablet's inherently consumeresque nature was to blame, while others suggested that businesses don't have sufficient interest in deploying this type of device. I don't think it's quite as complicated as that.

It really isn't the case that tablet adoption must necessarily be driven by the consumer--that, somehow, by its very essence, the tablet is a consumer product. It is a nifty personal device, to be sure, but so was the PC in its heyday, and consumers didn't blaze the trail to widespread PC adoption. For many if not most PC users, the introduction to the device was in the workplace, and a machine for the home followed much later.

Likewise, it really isn't the case that businesses simply aren't interested in a "business-first" tablet. The tablet is an ideal device in a wide array of business situations. Its mobility, quick boot-up, touch-screen interface and abundant app options make it a superb tool for countless employees whose work takes them away from a desk. We have seen myriad examples of companies across all industries provisioning tablets to employees for these very reasons, rather than waiting around for employees to bring their own. A few examples:

This is only a tiny sample of the businesses that very much want tablets for business purposes first. However, as evidenced by the fact that they all purchased iPads, they did not want to spend $750 a pop. The real problem for the Cius--and other tablets designed with business needs in mind, including the HP TouchPad 2--is that businesses evidently are unwilling to pay a premium for features once deemed critical for business, such as security.

I can't help thinking that the Cius experience exposes the real driver behind the consumerization of IT. Whether companies are deploying consumer-grade technology or waiting around until their employees bring their own, they are saving enormous amounts of money in the short run. The main difference between tablet adoption today and PC adoption of yore is that companies these days are trying not to spend a dime more than necessary to meet the next quarter's financial target. The consumerization of IT should really be called the cheapification of IT.

For the Cius and its business-minded brethren, this is the wrong time and place. We were told from the beginning that the Cius was not meant to compete with the less-expensive tablets. And that, in the end, was its problem. - Caron

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