Cautiously Optimistic About Cisco's New Android-based Tablet

The Cius is the first Android tablet aimed at the enterprise. Will it hit or miss?

It's been no secret amongst my friends that despite my reservations about the iPad, I still quietly crave having one.

The reason I haven't actually gone out and gotten one is not ideological--it's because I really don't have a use case I can justify to the boss (aka, my lovely wife). I have too many computers at home and don't travel very much right now to really need such a device.

Plus, I am hoping for something else to come along... a wish that seemed initially granted yesterday when Cisco announced the new Android-based Cius tablet, due out in early 2011.

Of course, for any open source fan like myself, hearing "Android" and "tablet" in the same sentence is usually enough to send us into fits of glee: the success of recent Android phone models (particularly HTC's Incredible and EVO) has proven that Android is a heck of a mobile platform.

My excitement waned a bit when I heard about the size of tablet itself: a mere seven-inch screen, compared to the iPad's 9.7-inch diagonal screen. Even my little Dell Mini 9 has a bigger screen than a Cius. Presumably, this is a trade off for battery power, since Cisco has stated that a big part of this device's functionality is going to be telepresence, and I would imagine that and the 1.6-GHz processor will be sucking up loads of power.

Still, it's too bad the screen had to be that small, because I think it will hurt potential sales of this device. Definitely for consumer sales, and possibly for the real target of Cisco's new device: the enterprise.

Is this just a matter of being non-sexy? For consumers, yes. But even for a business user, a small screen might be off-putting, because reading a lot of text on a small screen (as one might do when reading business documents and lots of e-mails) is taxing. At seven inches, the Cius screen will be larger than any smartphone's, but not by much. It could leave users wondering why they would justify the expense of squinting at a Cius, when they can already squint at a smartphone.

Then again, I don't know how the video quality will be for the Cius, so it may not be as bad as I think.

I am impressed, though, with the clear and decisive use-case Cisco has made for this device: this is marketed as a communication and collaboration tool, pure and simple. You may not want to use it for that, but at least it wasn't just tossed out on the marketplace like so many other (now forgotten) devices under the "customers-will-buy-this-just-because-it's-so-cool" marketing plan.

On the whole, I'm looking forward to the new device when it comes out, because I do believe that the Android platform has a lot of offer for tablet users. Someone just has to start selling them.

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