Cisco Ends Investment in Cius Tablet in Face of BYOD, Cloud

The networking and collaboration vendor instead will focus on growing its software efforts, such as the Jabber UC platform and WebEx online meeting solution.

Cisco Systems€™ Android-based Cius tablet has become a victim of the rapidly growing bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, trend in the enterprise.

The networking giant will no longer invest in the 2-year-old device, though it will offer Cius in a limited way to customers with specific needs. But there won€™t be any more development of the platform, or any more enhancements. The decision to essentially end development of Cius is the latest by Cisco to move away from particular hardware endpoints and instead focus on is software-based collaboration products, such as Jabber and WebEx.

It also mirrors similar strategies by other tech stalwarts€”such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell€”to expand beyond their hardware roots to become more of a solutions vendor with strong software and services offerings.

In a May 24 post on Cisco€™s collaboration blog, O.J. Winge, senior vice president of Cisco€™s TelePresence Technology Group, talked about the BYOD trend that is permeating the enterprise and how it is fundamentally changing how people collaborate.

€œ[W]e are facing a workplace that is no longer a physical place, but a blend of virtual and physical environments; where employees are bringing their preferences to work and BYOD (€œBring Your Own Device€ to work) is the new norm; where collaboration has to happen beyond a walled garden; and any-to-any connectivity is a requirement, not a €˜nice to have,€™€ Winge wrote.

That sentiment was backed up in Cisco€™s IBSG Horizons Study, which was released May 16. The study indicated that 95 percent of organizations responding to a survey said they allowed employee-owned devices into the workplace in some fashion, and that 36 percent of enterprises offer full support for such devices.

Other trends in the enterprise, including cloud computing, virtualization and the growth of video, also are contributing to the need for greater software solutions.

Given that scenario, enterprises are looking for fewer devices from tech vendors and more software offerings that enable businesses to leverage the devices€”including laptops, smartphones and tablets€”that are being used in the workplace by employees. IT vendors are rolling out more software solutions designed to make it easier for businesses to manage these mobile devices and secure the corporate network and data.

At the same time, they are making their collaboration and other applications available on the growing number of devices running on the major mobile platforms, from Apple€™s iOS and Google€™s Android to BlackBerrys and Microsoft€™s Windows.

Cisco€™s latest effort in this area came at the Enterprise Connect 2012 show in March, when officials announced that it was making the company€™s Jabber unified communications (UC) platform available on Apple€™s iPad platform and Windows-based devices. Jabber, which includes everything from instant messaging and presence to video, voice and desktop sharing, already had run on other Apple iOS devices, Android and the BlackBerry platform.

Company officials in November 2011 announced that both Jabber and WebEx, Cisco€™s online meeting platform, were being enhanced to meet the mobility trend within the enterprise.

Cisco plans to continue the aggressive software approach, according to Winge.

€œMoving forward, we intend to double down on software offerings, like Jabber and WebEx, that provide the any time, anywhere, and any device experiences,€ he wrote. €œWe will leverage key learnings and key collaboration experiences native to Cius in our other collaboration products. Experience matters, and Cisco is focused on empowering individual collaboration styles more effectively and securely, while providing the broadest choice of collaboration options based on preference, location and device.€

In a May 24 post on the No Jitter blog site, Eric Krapf, program co-chair of the Enterprise Connect events, said that given Cisco€™s previous moves in shuttering its Flip video camera and umi consumer telepresence products, no one should be surprised about the Cius move.

€œCisco has been shedding hardware businesses that straddle the consumer and enterprise worlds,€ Krapf wrote. €œCisco will always be a company that depends on hardware€”routers, desktop phone sets and servers, to name just a few of its most lucrative products. But Winge's announcement clearly shows that in the world of communications devices, the only money to be made in hardware is if you happen to be a manufacturer of consumer devices or traditional phones.€

He said the Cius probably will live on in certain niche areas€”ruggedized versions for field workers in utilities, for example€”but €œit's clear that there is no such thing as a general-purpose enterprise tablet, any more than there is an enterprise smartphone. Enterprise communications vendors may still compete to run high-value software on consumer devices, and they may be able to integrate their communications systems with applications that run on those consumer devices; but they've learned the hardware game is tough for them to compete in.€