Ah, Cisco Partner Summit. The usual mix of high-powered announcements, high-energy keynotes and plenty of speculation over how Cisco’s doing, how Cisco’s getting better with partners and what partners want to see from the networking titan as it continues to restructure.
But here’s one thing you don’t see a whole hell of a lot of at Cisco Partner Summit this year: the Cius.
A long year of Cius hype began in June 2010, when Cisco unveiled the Android tablet — an enterprise-grade unified communications endpoint, as it was billed — at Cisco Live. Partners were psyched about the possibilities of a Cisco-branded, Cisco-enabled tablet device, but at least nine months later, were still by and large waiting to get their hands on it. General availability didn’t begin, in fact, until more than a year later, on July 31.
Cisco made progress. Partners liked the idea of Cius being heavily tied to Cisco infrastructure, including support by Cisco’s UC Manager and native support for Cisco collaboration products like Quad, Jabber and WebEx. They also dug AppHQ, an application storefront, hosted in Cisco’s cloud, through which organizations can acquire apps that have been pre-validated to work with Cisco infrastructure, and also control what apps are made available to the users of their Cius fleets.
Cisco executives continued to position the tablet — even at a pre-discount price of $720 for the Wi-Fi-only version, without the docking station — as a key piece of Cisco’s collaboration strategy, which Cisco says is a $42 billion opportunity for the channel. Cisco near the end of 2011 said that more versions of Cius, bigger and smaller than the original unit, would be coming in 2012. Chuck Fontana, Cisco’s Cius product manager, said at the time that Cius sales had “met our expectations.”
All well and good. So, wouldn’t Cisco Partner Summit 2012, the first major Cisco channel event since Cius hit general availability, be the ideal place to talk about that growth?
No announcements. No stage mentions. No real discussion when it comes to areas Cisco is hyping like crazy — mobility and unified communications/collaboration to name two — and to which the Cius tablet is particularly germane. What gives, Cisco?
One of my big questions for Cisco heading into Partner Summit was whether or not customers are buying Cius, and how much of a revenue opportunity was Cius and its App HQ platform to the Cisco channel so far. I’ve asked a lot of partners over the last three days if Cius is selling, and while the answer isn’t “no” — I spoke to one partner who’s outfitting a major hotel chain with Ciuses to replace room phones and drive interactive media experiences in every room — it’s clear a lot of the early channel expectations for Cius have been substantially muted.
To be clear, Cisco never pushed Cius as an Apple iPad competitor. The two do different things, and partners are in near-universal agreement that Cius is a decidedly enterprise device, with the type of onboard security and infrastructure compatibility ideal for business users in Cisco environments.
But there’s just no data being made available, and no talk of progress.
“I don’t think they’ll get rid of it, but I think they are starting to position it less — and maybe this was always the plan — as a device to sell than as a piece of the platform they’re trying to demonstrate,” said an SVP-level executive at a well-known national Cisco partner. “Cisco’s collaboration strategy is the best one out there. Customers understand the architecture. A fraction of those customers — a small fraction — will take a look at Cius. Cisco’s going to win in other ways.”