Cisco puts Cius on hold as BYOD growth kills the enterprise tablet

The continued growth of BYOD and the increased maturity of mobile device management and mobile application management tools have forced Cisco to rethink both its enterprise collaboration strategy and its tablet strategy. Cisco came early to the enterprise tablet market announcing the Cius in mid-2010 just 3 months after Apple launched the first generation iPad. 

Small enough to fit into a doctor’s pocket (healthcare was seen as a key market for the Cius) the 7″ Cius offered replaceable batteries, HD video conferencing, unified communications and enterprise management features on day 1; the Cius that was the antithesis of the consumer-centric Apple iPad and a clear favorite for the emerging enterprise tablet market. Cisco announced that customer trials would  begin in the Q3 2010, with general availability in the Q1 2011. Unfortunately for Cisco, changing product specifications lead to productions delays with the final product not released until late June 2011, by which time the iPad 2 had already been released, addressing many of the original iPad’s short comings; and with sales exceeding 20 million, the iPad had made substantial gains in the enterprise with its top down adoption being one of the primary factors behind the BYOD movement.

Now, with continued rumors  of a smaller iPad being readied for launch and in an increasingly crowed market, Cisco still on its first generation Cius has all but called it quits, putting development of the Cius tablet on hold in favor of placing greater emphasis on software based collaboration offerings like Jabber and WebEx.

OJ Winge, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco’s Collaboration Endpoints Technology Group announced the change in priorities on his blog

Cisco has demonstrated a commitment to delivering innovative software like Cisco Jabber and Cisco WebEx across a wide spectrum of operating systems, tablets and Smart Phones. We’re seeing tremendous interest in these software offerings. Customers see the value in how these offerings enable employees to work on their terms in the Post-PC era, while still having access to collaboration experiences.

Based on these market transitions, 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. However, as we evaluate the market further, we will continue to offer Cius in a limited fashion to customers with specific needs or use cases.

Moving forward, we intend to double down on software offerings, like Jabber and WebEx, that provide the anytime, anywhere, and any device experiences. We will leverage key learnings and key collaboration experiences native to Cius in our other collaboration products.”

As difficult as it is to change direction this way, there is little doubt that this is the right decision. Cisco could have competed, possibly dominated, in a pure-play enterprise tablet market, especially one where the depth of its communications know-how and the integration between Cius and the rest of Cisco’s enterprise technology would have provided many opportunities. But what it really comes down to is the reality that Cisco is not geared up to compete in a consumer lead marketplace where technology cycles are revving every 9 months, and where BYOD and CoIT are seriously disrupting the plans of any organization more used to playing the long game.

By limiting Cius to specific verticals where consumerization has less opportunity to take hold and where enterprise management controls outweigh BYOD satisfaction, Cisco still has a change with Cius, but that possibility has to be considered remote now and Cisco is right to focus its resources on software that can run on any platform, Cius included.

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