Cisco to introduce larger Cius tablet next year

Screen size to be larger than current Cius

Cisco Systems in the first half of next year will release a tablet with a larger screen than the current Cius, the first move in the company's long-term plans to introduce tablets in multiple sizes, an executive said this week.

The new tablet will be released around the spring season in the U.S., and the screen size will be larger than the 7-inch screen on the current Cius tablet, said Chuck Fontana, director of Cius product management at Cisco.

"We're still working through the details of the exact form factor, but that work is under way," Fontana said, adding that the tablet size is being evaluated based on customer demand.

The company is looking at multiple screen sizes, but a lot of research is around tablets with 10-inch to 11-inch screens, Fontana said. Cisco is also looking at smaller Android devices with 3.5-inch to 5-inch screens from where users can access videoconferencing, collaboration and virtual desktop tools.

"The same Cius experience you'll be seeing on other form factors," Fontana said.

After delays and a long trial run, Cisco's Cius tablet start shipping in July and is targeted at businesses. The tablet has Google's Android 2.2 OS, which is code-named Froyo, and Intel's mobile processor, which is code-named Moorestown.

Cius is currently priced at US$725, higher than the iPad 2, which is priced starting at $499. The tablet is not available in retail stores and competes with business tablets such as recently introduced Hewlett-Packard's Slate 2, which has an 8.9-inch screen, and Dell's Latitude ST, which has a 10-inch screen.

Fontana described Cius as an "endpoint" device that can be used as a virtual desktop or as a mobile device for communication or collaboration. The device works with Cisco's TelePresence videoconferencing system, WebEx tools and other applications including Quad, a collaboration tool also available for the iPad and iPhone. Virtualization software from VMware and Citrix allows the tablet to run a virtualized Windows desktop. The tablet also provides access to Android Market and Cisco's AppHQ, which carries business applications tested and certified by the company.

Cisco is also working with Intel to upgrade the current Cius to Google's Android 4.0, also called Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new OS can be expected by fall, Fontana said. He declined comment on whether the new larger screen tablet would come with Android 4.0.

There are no current plans to put Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 in the Cius tablet, but the company is keeping all hardware and software options open, Fontana said. The company is proceeding with Android, as Cisco applications can expand to other Android devices, iPads and iPhones.

Use of the Cius is growing in the enterprise as applications move to the cloud and businesses increasingly find ways to use tablets, Fontana said. There is a demand for larger screens, so one of Cisco's immediate focus is to upgrade its tablet lineup. The current Cius is being used in hospitals for doctors to interact and access documents, and by Cox Communications field workers for customer support.

Larger screens are useful in businesses, especially in dealing with rich media and for those who want wider screens but don't have a dock or a monitor, Fontana said. It will be possible to dock larger-screen Cius devices on desktop phones, and will provide a PC-like experience via secure access to virtual desktops hosted on servers.

"Some people don't want a device that's more mobile, they want something that's an endpoint that's both a videophone and a virtual desktop," Fontana said.

Smaller devices with 3.5-inch to 5-inch screens are also under consideration, Fontana said. These devices could resemble smartphones in size, but will be smaller cousins of the larger tablets, with access to enterprise collaboration, communication and virtual desktop tools.

"It's another [unified communications] endpoint. Everything you can do on the 7-inch Cius today you can do on a 5-inch as well. The use cases are, some people just want something they can put in their pocket," Fontana said.

For instance, smaller-screen Cius devices could resemble smartphones and be alternatives to older devices like Cisco's old IP phones which are currently popular portable devices for voice and video.

The company this week introduced a model of its current Cius 7-inch device for AT&T's 4G network. The company will also introduce a Cius for Verizon's LTE network soon, Fontana said.

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