Cisco Cius, AppHQ Aim at Enterprise Tablet Market

Cisco is pairing its upcoming Cius tablet with an AppHQ app ecosystem, with an eye toward seizing the business market from other tablet players.

Cisco Systems is introducing an app ecosystem for its Cisco Cius tablet, marking the company's entrance into an already crowded landscape.

The AppHQ app ecosystem is designed for IT pros seeking to create, manage and deploy tablet applications within their enterprise. Cisco is pairing it with the Cius, an Android-based tablet that emphasizes voice, video, collaboration and virtualization capabilities.

The 7-inch Cius is scheduled for a July 31 global release, with an estimated price point below $750. Cisco plans on integrating a number of branded products into the user interface, including Cisco TelePresence, Cisco WebEx meeting applications, Cisco Quad social software and Cisco Jabber messaging.

Cisco will allow businesses to host their own private app store within the AppHQ storefront. Those private stores will be customizable down to corporate logos and icons. In keeping with standards of enterprise security, IT managers will have control over which employees within an organization can download apps, and grant access to those apps based on type, source and category. Every application within the AppHQ storefront will undergo validation testing.

"Cisco is extending its leadership in networked collaboration to the mobile form factor in a highly secure and controlled way," Barry O'Sullivan, senior vice president of Cisco's Communications and Collaboration Group, wrote in a June 29 statement. "Our customers' positive response to Cius reflects how technology can change not only when and how we work, but also the way IT will deliver collaborative services to employees, and do so in a way that meets the needs of end users and developers and IT managers."

Cisco has a history of plunging into new product categories, only to retreat a short time later. In February, Cisco killed off Cisco Mail, its hosted email service, a mere 13 months after launch. Cisco Mail had faced several established players, including Google Apps and Microsoft's Exchange Online; in the face of that, the service apparently had trouble attracting sufficient customers.

Cisco also shut down its Flip video camera business, which it had purchased for $590 million in 2009. Flip sales tumbled during the 2010 holiday season, calling into question both Cisco's marketing and the ability of a dedicated device like a digital camcorder to survive in a world of do-everything smartphones and tablets.

However, Cisco evidently feels it can make inroads in the crowded tablet market, currently dominated by Apple's iPad. A variety of manufacturers, including Motorola and Samsung, have introduced Android-based tablets over the past few quarters. Meanwhile, Research In Motion is hoping its PlayBook tablet will allow it to make inroads among the same enterprise audience that embraced the BlackBerry.