This article first appeared on Best in UC.
Following the overwhelming success of the Apple iPad, it seems that everyone is jumping on the tablet bandwagon. The latest figures from Apple show unit sales topping $25 million in just over 15 months. That may be more iPads than McDonaldâ€™s burgers purchased in a similar amount of time. Itâ€™s certainly more tablets than all competitors combined.
Applications drive hardware, and the iPad debuted in April 2010 with a huge advantage, carrying the approximately a half million apps over from the iPhone. Check out these statistics from Appleâ€™s app store:
Total active apps (currently available for download): 449,581
Total inactive apps (no longer available for download): 109,446
Total apps seen in U.S. app store: 559,027
Number of active publishers in the U.S. app store: 100,108
It certainly makes sense for Samsung, RIM, Motorola and others to tackle this market, as they are device manufacturers used to churning out large numbers of widgets. But what gives with Avaya and Cisco, the giant enterprise unified communications (UC) players, trying to compete? Keep in mind that consumer device manufacturers havenâ€™t exactly smoked Apple to date in this competition.
Cisco has introduced its tablet offering, the Cius, to underwhelming fanfare from the enterprise market it owns for routing and switching. The 7-inch device is full-featured, offers one-click connection to WebX (owned by Cisco), and is integrated with the proprietary Cisco Telepresence world. Cisco even rolled out a proprietary app store, cleverly named AppHQ, which replicates many of the apps seen in Appleâ€™s storefront. Iâ€™ve often said there just arenâ€™t enough app stores out there.
At about $1,000, the Cius is premium priced and may eventually sell in the thousands to giant Cisco clients who will find the product surreptitiously bundled with the enterprise products they purchase on a regular basis. And the tablet has, of all things, an Ethernet jack! Prepare to carry a very long CAT 6 cable about, as the idea of a tablet is portability. Cisco just cannot resist selling Ethernet ports!
But why? Spending this type of research and development dollars to produce a me-too product is just not Ciscoâ€™s usual modus operendi. Maybe the misstep with the Flip video camera was not their only gaffe. I cannot see where this product will add any significant revenue to a company that really needs it right now. And why divert resources away from making the Nexus product as reliable and as cost-efficient as the aged 6500 series platform it replaces? My poll of Cisco resellers across the nation indicates that they are just not buying into the Cius vision, and the recent Cisco Live! event confirmed that most partners are scratching their heads over this introduction.
Then there is Avaya, which has strayed even farther afield with its Flare tablet. Although the device is really just the front-end for the entire UC experience Avaya calls Flare, the nearly $2,000 price tag for an Andriod tablet is stunning. Also surprising is its hefty 3.5-pound weight. The UI is fantastic, but dedicating $2,000 for every conference room for a glorified remote control is outside the budget of all but the most die-hard Avaya fans or technologists with unlimited funds at their disposal. With 8,000 iPads leaving the dock daily and thousands of new apps each month, why would anyone try to mandate a proprietary system in an enterprise network? And who wants to carry around three and a half pounds of hardware with a very limited capability? But boy it sure has a cool interface!
ShoreTel unveiled its strategy at the corporationâ€™s annual Partner Summit in Chicago last month. The company cleverly used the ubiquitous iPad as a desktop UC interface to enable all the applications associated with the ShoreWare UC platform.
ShoreTel, instead of re-inventing the tablet, chose to announce a high-quality docking station with a top-notch speakerphone and ergonomic handset. Yes, they may cut into their traditional IP desk set sales, but enabling unified communications users is the real end game. The station will support the iPhone and iPad at the outset, but eventually it will work with all major smartphone and tablet devices. The station has VGA/DVI output, as well as USB and Bluetooth interfaces for monitor and keyboard if desired. Pricing is said to be in the $200 to $400 range, which seems to make a great deal of sense for the millions of corporate iPad and iPhone users that want to integrate their mobile technology to the corporate PBX.
Gee, why didnâ€™t the big guys think of this?