Would you like to spend $1,100 on a Cisco Cius or $399 on an iPad?

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I have been banging on about the Cisco Cius for a long, long time now. (See my post: “Cisco Cius: an iPad for the enterprise,” June 30th 2010.)

Ever since the global networking giant announced their entry into the tablet market, I have been mentioning them in the same breath as Apple’s iPad, BlackBerry’s PlayBook and Motorola/Samsung’s offerings. Now and again, i’ll meet a CIO or IT Director who raises their eyebrows thoughtfully at the mention of the Cisco product.

In recent months though, nobody’s cared. Indeed Cisco’s fall from grace in my entirely anecdotal experience has been dramatic. They were definitely a contender back when the iPad was hitting the world for the first time. Indeed I remember quite a few CIOs who quietly pointed out that they were “waiting to see what Cisco had to offer” before deciding on iPad. I think that decision period closed off quite a long time ago. The iPad won.

The last chap I spoke to about the Cius as “something to possibly consider” regarded me as though I’d suggested he put on a bright pink dress and start calling himself Elizabeth.

“How much will that cost then?” he asked. Not for nothing does he operate a technology budget that requires a footer on every page explaining, “all numbers are millions unless specified.”

“Er, well it’s Cisco I said,” with a bit of a pained look, “So it’ll be at least 3x the normal cost for a tablet.”

The executive stopped in his tracks. We were walking along a corridor West Wing style.

“And the rest?” he asked, before continuing, “How much stuff will we have to buy from Cisco just to make it work?”

I let the silence fill the void.

“Exactly,” he said, “We’ll buy iPads.”

And thus the Cius got about 2 seconds worth of consideration from this senior executive.

I wonder if the rest of the market is reacting in this manner, too?

There are lots of arguments in favour of Cisco’s tablet offering (think: Really cool unified communications) however I think they’re all being waved away with the global obsession for consumerisation. Far from pushing back, many huge enterprises appear to be fully embracing this trend which is especially popular with everyone getting a ‘free’ iPad. To the point that I’m seeing more and more companies simply buying huge data connections into their offices and letting their employees (effectively) work the rest out. Skype, FaceTime, Viber, whatever. Is there even a need to deploy an IP voice system any more?

This is all wholly anecdotal.

However based on my direct experience, I can point to about ten companies each with an IT budget of over $100m who’d never, ever buy Cisco anymore. This isn’t a slight on Cisco. It’s just that these companies have moved on. They’ve moved to the point whereby they don’t bother and don’t need to invest in this kind of technology.

Do you remember the time when enterprises would gladly spend $1,100 on a proper enterprise device when the consumer equivalent cost half or a third of the price? I do. Times have changed. How are you going to get that one past the CFO when the iPad is $399 and in active use at most of the Fortune 500?

What’s prompted my post today is the post from the team at Network World who — gasp — have seen the Cius in real life (“First Look: Cisco Cius“). They’ve even touched it. But they weren’t allowed to take it back to the office. The post is well worth a look if you’re at all interested in enterprise computing and collaboration and you’re after anice overview of the Cius. The official Cisco Cius site also has some information on the product.

Meanwhile I’ve yet to physically see one myself.

Is there room in the market for Cius? It’s not going to be an easy road for Cisco. Not at all. Not when absolutely everything they can throw at you in terms of an argument can be duplicated (or, depending on your perception, bettered) by the iPad.

I’m open to the concept myself. I still do think that, correctly implemented, a “Cius on every desk” could be a very powerful business tool. What’s your view?

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