SLIDESHOW

Cisco Cius Close Up: A Tablet Built for Business

The Cisco Cius is not just another 7-inch Android tablet, but a powerful communication tool targeting businesses.

The Cius Tablet

With the Cius, Cisco is aiming to change the way workforces communicate. What may look like just another 7-inch Android tablet is actually an advanced telecommunications tool, thanks to all the custom apps and software that Cisco has developed. (It also happens to play Angry Birds, for those breaks between meetings.)

Inside, the Cius has Intel's Moorestown single-core 1.6GHz Atom CPU, 1GB of memory, 32GB of storage (expandable via MicroSD Card up to another 32GB), and hardware-accelerated h.264 video. It also has a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera that does 720p video. Connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g/n, and optional 3G/4G. The 7-inch screen offers a resolution of 1024 by 768.

Design

As a tablet, the Cius doesn't physically distinguish itself. The unit measures 8.9 by 5.5 by 0.6 inches, and weighs 1.15 pounds--heavy by 7-inch tablet standards, but not so heavy as to discount it as a mobile device. The Cius is optimized for use in landscape mode with the video camera centered above the display, and with the speakers positioned along the bottom near the physical Android navigation buttons. The menu, home, and back buttons are contoured and well defined. At the back, an indentation beneath the battery houses some of the inputs (shown in the next slide). When you're handling the tablet, the indentation provides a convenient place to rest your fingers.

Ports and Removable Battery

When you hold the Cius horizontally, along the top of the tablet are an oval-shaped power button, a MicroSD slot under a sturdy lid, and a Micro-USB port. The left edge has a curved volume button, as well as a mute button. The only things on the right side are a power input and the slider to remove the battery.

HD Media Station

The HD Media Station is a dock designed to turn the Cius into an office workstation and advanced telecommunications system, complete with a phone handset. It also adds gigabit ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports, a 3.5mm heaphone jack, DisplayPort, and a PoE (Power over Ethernet) jack.

Cisco has written its own drivers to support USB host devices, a mouse, and a keyboard. When docked, the tablet can output upscaled video via DisplayPort. Unfortunately, the tablet's output looks disappointing: Text seems grainy and overblown, a situation made even worse because Android 2.2 isn't optimized for scaling to large screens.

Android

The Cius runs Android 2.2 (Froyo). Although Cisco says that it has kept the Cius's software close to a stock install of Android, the home screen has many customizations, with Cisco software front and center. The seamless integration of the various apps and tools sets the Cius apart from consumer-oriented tablets.

Cisco Core Apps

The core apps include Unified Inbox, Phone, Chat, Email, Calendar, and Contacts. Videoconferencing ties in to Cisco's TelePresence system. You'll also find the Cisco WebEx online-conferencing app. The apps run in real time in the background.

Unified Inbox Widget

A good portion of the Cius home screen is filled with the Unified Inbox widget. The widget displays up to five contacts with images pulled from the corporate directory, sized based on the most recent communication, with the last person you spoke with being the largest. The widget also displays the contact's availability for chat, email, and phone calls, and it shows missed calls, voicemail messages, and upcoming meetings.

Contacts App

The list of contacts pulls from the corporate directory; a dot next to a person's picture indicates availability. Tapping a contact pulls up the communication ribbon, allowing you to call, email, or chat. This screen remains visible during an active call, chat, or email session, allowing you to switch seamlessly to another method of communication without having to back out of your current one.

Calendar

The calendar shows appointments by day, week, or month. Another benefit to the tight integration of Cisco's tools is the ability to start a conference call directly off a meeting on the calendar.

Phone

The phone app has three panes. On the left is the list of available rooms, and any active or missed calls. In the center is the contact list, which shows the availability of each contact. On the right is the familiar phone keypad for dialing.

Voicemail

Voicemail messages are delivered visually, so you can listen to them in whatever order you choose, and also read transcripts of the messages. Once again, the contact's picture shows the person's availability, and tapping it will call up the communication ribbon.

Chat

The contacts list stays on screen during active chat sessions, for easy switching to a phone or video call. The keyboard is responsive and reasonably sized for a 7-inch tablet.

Videoconferencing

Cisco is known for enterprise-class videoconferencing tools, so it's no surprise that video calling is well integrated into the Cius. On the left, you can see various TelePresence rooms that are available to join.

App HQ Store

App HQ will offer apps that Cisco has vetted to work on the Cius, and to be malware-free. The App HQ infrastructure will also enable, for a fee, the ability for companies to create custom stores for employees; the benefit here is that employees can then download customized Android apps for company-specific uses, or download apps that the IT department has already licensed, all without having to enter personal credit card information.

In the base installation, Cisco also includes Quickoffice for viewing Microsoft Office apps. For editing, you'll need to purchase the Pro license, or buy an alternative from Cisco's App HQ store.