Enterprise Tablets: Hurry and Get One Before They Are Gone

by Dave Michels

The Cius is almost here. That makes two enterprise UC tablets: Cisco Cius and Avaya Desktop Video Device with the Flare Experience.

First some clarifications and differences, then a few conclusions.

  1. These devices do not compete with each other. The Cisco Cius is for Cisco UC customers and the Avaya Desktop Video Device is for Avaya customers. One might argue they compete in green field situations, but I don’t think the tablet should be a major consideration there since the lifespan of these products will be short.
  2. Both devices are based on Android which makes a lot of sense, it’s free and popular (and the subject of lots of lawsuits).
  3. Both devices are positioned as a supplement and/or replacement to the desktop phone.
  4. The Cius has an Appstore – it is called AppHQ and will be attractive to IT managers as it provides micro control over application distribution. AppHQ also enables IT to remotely wipe the unit should it be lost, stolen, or as a hilarious practical joke. This is important as these versions of Android do not encrypt the data stored on the devices.
  5. Currently, Avaya and Cisco only offer one device each. Avaya announced its Flare experience is coming to third party mobile devices.
  6. The Cius has a smaller screen, 7″ compared to Avaya’s 11.6 touchscreen
  7. Price: Cius about $750, Avaya Desktop Video Device about $1200.
  8. Ports: Enterprise class devices need them.
    Avaya desktop video device: Ethernet (1), USB 2.0 (2)
    Cisco Cius: Micro USB (1), HDM1, 3.5 mm headphone jack.
    The iPad has none.
  9. Both units are pretty much the same regarding cameras, RAM, and processor.
  10. Points: Cisco gets points for clever name. Avaya gets points for being first (considerably).
Back to point 1 – these products don’t really compete with each other, so side by side comparisons do not really benefit the buyer. The differences are really more about the vendors and their approaches.
Both are positioned as mobile devices, but they offer different notions of mobility. Avaya’s tablet has an 11.6″ screen, weighs 3.4 lbs, and operates 3 hours on a charge. Cisco’s tablet has a 7″ display, weighs 1.15 lbs, and operates about 8 hours on a charge. Avaya is thinking mobile as in moving from the office to conference room and Cisco is thinking air travel. This is probably what Avaya is hinting at by including of the word “desktop” in its name.
Cisco took its time with the Cius. Avaya brought its desktop video device to market about 10 months earlier. Why? I am guessing because Avaya better understood the importance of mobile (compare Cisco Unified Mobile Communicator with Avaya’s One-X). Also, Avaya contracted it out to manufacture, and presumably Cisco did not.
Cisco is working to appease IT – this is most evident with AppHQ. Avaya is focusing more on the user with Flare. Which makes more sense? That depends on who the buyer is: IT or the end user. The end user is all over the iPad. Cisco is attempting to create something IT can embrace and win. .
These devices are attempting to establish a new market – the enterprise tablet market. Currently, by default, they are competing with the iPad. The vendors need to convince IT and the general public that a consumer class device does not belong at the office. That’s going to be a tough sell:
  • It bucks the consumerization trend.
  • It directly goes against Apple – dangerous strategy (ask Adobe).
  • Many of the people they need to convince are currently using consumer devices and software quite happily (iPhone, Skype, Gmail, etc.).
  • These enterprise devices are more expensive than consumer alternatives. It isn’t just the price alone, employees are increasingly willing to buy and pay for their own devices. That makes these enterprise options 100% more expensive, plus the TCO factors such as support and disposal.
  • They don’t have a killer app. The killer apps are generally already in the consumer appstores.
At least for now, the enterprise tablet is more expensive, more limited, and less personal. I do think the concept has legs, but it might take a few generations. For example, I won’t buy consumer class notebooks. They are priced attractively, but don’t last. I understand the “cost” of changing devices, so want one that will last. I am willing to pay a premium for better quality cases, longer lasting batteries, higher res cams and screens, etc.
That disparity between consumer and business wasn’t there initially, we just bought computers. Go to Dell.com today and the first thing they ask is what type of user you are (consumer, small business, enterprise, … )  and that determines the products and product quality you see. Apple doesn’t do that. Apple has special pricing for Education, but the product is the same. As long as the mass produced product has decent quality, there isn’t going to be a sufficient market for better quality.
Lastly, I think it is interesting that neither of these companies are positioning their devices outside their customer bases. Numerous hosted voice providers support/promote Cisco branded SIP phones and Avaya positions SIP predominately in its messaging. Polycom does quite well with its SIP phones and doesn’t even produce a phone system. If these vendors believe that business customers need a business class tablet, why limit the market to existing customers? Both devices can support a basic SIP client, but with a very limited experience. A server appliance, as Aastra does with its BlueStar SIP video endpoints, could dramatically expand the market for business class tablets.


Is That A Tablet In Your Pocket, or…?

Defending Avaya