Cisco business tablet takes on Apple iPad

Networking outfit Cisco has announced a business-centric tablet PC to take on Apple in the professional arena.

It's hard to deny that Apple's iPad has been a huge success selling far in excess of two million units since its launch in April, and with demand far outstripping supply, the future looks bright for the 'magical' device. But pundits and users alike have bemoaned the tablet's lack of core business tools, calling it a gadget, and suggesting that it's not really suitable for 'proper work'.

Now Cisco seems to have grasped the iPad's apparent shortcomings when it comes to providing a serious alternative to the traditional notebook for business users with the announcement of the Cius.

The seven-inch tablet - which seems to have been designed using the premise that, if you want a device to be taken serioulsy, it has to be plug ugly - concentrates on communications and desktop integration as its prime requisites, and runs Google's Android operating system.

Weighing in at a little over half a kilogram (1.15lbs), Cisco says the Cius uses the company's own collaboration applications to provide a highly secure mobile platform with full telepresence interoperability. Which, to the rest of us, means it can do video conferencing.

The tablet operates either as a thin, cloud-based client when away from the office but slips neatly into a telephone-equipped dock when you're at your desk. An HD displayport will allow it to be hooked up to full-size display and either the micro USB port or Blue-tooth will take on keyboard connectivity duties.

There's a front-mounted 720p HD camera as well as a rear-facing VGA version for video conferencing, a detachable 'eight-hour' battery and 802.11 Wi-fi in all of its current flavours.

It won't be available until the first quarter of 2011 and will cost around $1,000 according to current best guesses, but who knows what Apple will have come up with by then?

Too little, too late, and too damned ugly in our book.