Cisco trumpets app store for Cius

Cisco Systems Inc. says its soon-to-be released Cius tablet consolidates technology rather than adds to an already complex enterprise environment.

To prove it the company announced Wednesday that it has created an applications store for the Android-based device called AppHQ, stocked initially with 250 business applications. More will be added based on customer demand.

At a North American preview for reporters, Cisco officials emphasized that Cius won’t be offered as a consumer product competing with Apple’s iPad and numerous Android-powered tablets.

“The Cius has many things more than your consumer tablet,” said Tom Puorro, Cisco’s senior director of product management. “It has VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), telephony and instant messaging. The Cius is not about editing a Word document on the screen or watching a movie. It has flexibility with the way I work. This is not a consumer device, but we want to make sure the customer has some choice so it’s not restrictive on apps, and you can get apps from Amazon but with IT manager authentication.”

He called Cius a window into the enterprise with a large display (7-inches) for conferencing, three-way call transfers, call hold and a telepresence capability that’s not restricted to a room.

The tablet, which combines voice, video, collaboration and virtualization capabilities and can be docked on an optional IP phone base, goes on sale July 31. The first version will only have Wi-Fi connectivity. Later models will have cellular connectivity.

Cisco says the estimated street price will be below $750. A promotion called “Triple V” (for Voice, Video and Virtualization) could drop that below $700.

Cara Wilson, vice-president of collaboration for Cisco, said the thought behind the communications consolidation strategy is based on the rise of collaboration in the workplace. More people are using office productivity tools in a social and visual way. The thought of people working on a PC has been shattered. All the layers in the stack have been changing to a new adaptive workspace. Email has become social and the old standard provisioning model is now an app store,” she said.

AppHQ is a cloud-based app storefront built for IT managers that will be hosted by Cisco or authorized service providers or channel partners. Cius will also come with a link to the Android Market app store. The apps in AppHQ have been tested and validated for the enterprise, Cisco said. But Cisco also wants customers to be able to build their own apps.

According to Puorro, a business could have its own company-wide app store and its internal IT managers would be able to pick and choose applications on demand from this service. Apps could be tailored for specific users, job class and location. These apps could also be customized for the customer. IT managers will have the ability to allow or deny access to particular applications.

Some of the applications on AppHQ include Salesforce.com, Citrix, Cisco Quad and WebEx.

He added that Cius is not a point product but a window into the enterprise with a large display (7-inches) for conferencing, three-way transfers, call hold and a telepresence that’s not restricted to a room.

Palomar Pomerado Heath is one of the first healthcare providers to use the Cius platform in its community of Escondido, Calif.

CIO Orlando Portale said the tablet gives doctors a better collaboration tool with access to real-time data in any area of the facility. He added that doctors and nurse can now make more timely decisions on patient care.

The app Palomar uses is called MIAA (Medication Information Anytime Anywhere). MIAA pulls patient records form disparate facilities on demand and enables physicians to consult through email and video conference at the same time.

Palomar ran between 15 and 20 pilot projects with the Cius platform most in areas such as the nurse station and in patient rooms. “Cius enables our staff to get a call at night and be able to consult with nurses and physicians and get real time access to apps, healthcare records and real time video directly with patients,” Portale said.

He believes that this product can scale up to significant numbers. Palomar runs it behind a firewall and it also enabled them to provide updates to its end users faster. It the past this was a harder task because of Palomar’s many facilities spread out on 22-mile campus.

He hopes that future versions of Cius product will be impregnated with silver inside the plastic to reduce the amount of infection. Like other IT equipment the institution uses, Cius tablets have to be sanitized and wiped down with alcohol.