Cisco Cius versus iPad versus HP WebOS – Year of the Tablets

So we got an early set of announcements about the Cisco Cius as part of the Cisco’s Virtualisation Experience Initiative Cisco VXI Clients (VXI – Cisco marketing working overtime on a snappy name there). So far, the pitch on the Cius is that it will act as a thin client to VMware VDI and XenServer on a UCS backend. They’ve also added some new phone that will acts thin client desktops (and IP phones).


Not a bad pitch, as far as it goes. It’s got a nice end-to-end story to it since Cisco will manufacture the desktop, network and servers. And they have setup professional services packages to support VXI for with major virtual desktop infrastructures and repeated the VCE / Acadia concept by offering ‘guaranteed delivery’ for predefined configurations. That certainly helps to handle any objections raised during the sales cycle and ensure that customers can’t reject Cisco’s sales advances without taking the time to consider them.

What is it about IT infrastructure that customers need to feel all safe, supported and positive about making a ‘radical’ decision to buy servers, networking and desktops that are exactly the same as they already use today ? IT Departments have been selecting best of breed products for the last thirty years and building critical infrastructures that work. Today, CIsco and HP want us to trust them to supply the entire solution ‘because they know best’. Hah. It all comes at a nominal fee. Or is that phenomenal fee.

HP WebOS / Palm

We haven’t heard what HP is planning to do with WebOS, but the journalists are telling us that HP has a major announcement for WebOS in January. So here is what I’m anticipating for that announcement:

  • announce a tablet that is a thin client for corporate desktops, and possibly including IP telephony integration with HP IP Telephony product.
  • support for Microsoft HyperV and VMware with approved configuration (bundled services)
  • announce other versions of the tablet for the retail market to sell alongside their printers and PCs for home users. Complete with crapware, of course.
  • I don’t believe they will release a phone version of WebOS at this time or possibly ever. HP is focussed on enterprise computing and home computing – that means tablets (and the phone market is too competitive plus working with carriers requires a lot of resources)

Because what Cisco is doing is an incremental and obvious step in extending themselves into new markets, I’m expecting HP to do exactly the same thing. Except HP owns WebOS.

Comparing Cisco Cius and HP Palm tablets

  • Cisco Cius is running Android, HP Palm runs their own WebOS.
  • HP has a unique selling point and the ability to differentiate their product.
  • Cisco can open the platform to Android software developers and form for a better partner ecosystem.

Whither the iPad

The problem with this lovely story is the Apple iPad. No doubt Cisco and HP have been working on their tablet stories for the last two or three years. I also have no doubt that the unexpected success of the iPad selling twenty or thirty million units in the first year has seriously upset their plans. But the thing really bothering them would be rise of the articles in the press about the iPad moving into the enterprise. Cisco and HP think that they own the enterprise, and it’s their right to make money out it. The idea that Apple can crossover a device from the consumer marketplace is going to kink them up. Users do NOT WANT to get a Cisco CIUS or HP Palm tablet, they want an Apple iPad. And Apple has released a set of tools that provide the functionality the IT needs to administer the device. All those restrictions and limitations of the iTunes store are exactly what corporate IT wants to control their iPad devices. If you have spent time researching the Apple Enterprise iPad tools, you’ll be impressed with whats in there for managing a fleet of iPhones and iPads. Nice.

And I’m beginning to think that the iTunes store was always designed with corporate IT in mind but adapted for use in retail. Certainly the features for corporate IT are all in place.

The EtherealMind View

Let me summarise a bunch of thoughts around this topic, in no particular order.

  • I’m taking the view that Cisco and HP believe that there is market for corporate tablets and we will see a lot of them this year.
  • Cisco has delivered the opening round of their tablet strategy after strutting it at Cisco Live in Las Vegas last year.
  • Cisco has announced their desktop strategy in the form of the VXI initiative – effectively a sideways attack on the corporate desktop market that plays to their ‘strengths’ of Servers and Networking.
  • Cisco will be promoting a ‘full service’ strategy with ‘validated designs’ for deploying Virtual Desktops to address customers concerns about Cisco not being a desktop computer company.
  • Cisco will be using their existing IP Phone / Unified Communications infrastructure as a launchpad for attacking the thin client desktop market so that customers perceive they have a ‘track record’ in desktops. They won’t attempt to compete directly with Dell and IBM for desktop computers for fear of losing them as Networking / Borderless Networks customers by announcing Intel based PC’s.
  • The shift to tablets will drive a new emphasis on wireless networking and probably will include interoperability solutions and drive 802.11n and 5Ghz wireless…. at last.
  • HP is running behind Cisco as usual. HP’s lawyers stop them from announcing anything before it’s finished so you never know what the roadmap looks like or what developments are occurring. By then, HP looks like grandma when it’s finally arrives – last, a little disheveled, and kind of old news.
  • Apple iPads are likely to cramp Cisco and HP because the users would rather have iPads than a Cius or Palm tablet.
  • Apple iPads are proven reliable, and have corporate friendly administration.
  • Apple’s iOS is proven software and in the fourth or fifth generation. Who wants to trial anything else ?

Although I’m speculating on the HP tablet, I suspect that networking will see a new focus on remote computing, wireless networking and supporting virtual desktops in 2011. Of course, I could cynically note that this drives directly into the marketing maelstrom that is Cloud Computing by supporting edge access to information : I could be cynical like that, couldn’t I ?


About the author

Greg Ferro

Greg Ferro is the co-host of Packet Pushers. After surviving 25 years in Enterprise IT with only minor damage, he uses his networking expertise for good in the service of others by deep diving on technology and industry. His unique role as an inspirational cynicist brings a sense of fun, practicality and sheer talent to world of data networking and its place in a world of clouds.

He blogs regularly at and the podcasts are at

1 Comment

Leave a Comment