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June 30, 2011
The VAR Guy got to check out the Cisco Cius at a press event in New York June 29, 2011, and after some hands-on time, our reisdent blogger spoke with Richard McLeod, Cisco’s senior director of Collaboration Sales and Worldwide Partner Organization and Ken Snyder, emerging technology solutions manager at CDW, about the partner and channel opportunities with the Cius tablet. Both were happy to discuss how the Cius is more than a tablet, it’s an ecosystem. The VAR Guy likes that idea. Details follow…
McLeod noted VARs — CDW included — find compelling the idea that a Cius sale involves building out a Cius-ready architecture, and from that, VARs can offer their professional services, opening doors for opportunities and revenue streams. Snyder added that he could see VARs providing integration services with horizontal and vertical applications. McLeod offered the example of adding ERP apps to the Cius’ already deep presence capabilities. Customers are increasingly interested in how the Cius can help them, Snyder said, and the real-time nature of collaboration and communication is something that appeals to nearly everyone.
But it’s not exactly cheap, at about $700 a device, not counting infrastructure. So The VAR guy asked what kind of budget was needed, and/or if this device really had a play in businesses that aren’t enterprises or large verticals. More simply: Does Cisco love the SMB?
“The cost of a desktop, the cost of a video endpoint, and the cost of a mobile platform — you collapse those things down into a single Cius — and you’ve got a close price match [with a productivity] boost,” said Snyder. Hmm, it’s an interesting proposition, but The VAR Guy isn’t quite sure. It’s an argument that only seems valid if a company hadn’t already invested in desktops and infrastructure — or if a compete overhaul was needed — and/or the Cisco UC Manger already existed. But, yes, an SMB could deploy a VDI infrastructure in house with Cisco’s UC Manager (or compatible open standards), and instead of buying thin clients or desktops, could simply buy everyone a Cius with a dock. Based on what Cisco showed The VAR Guy, that’s not only possible, but it’s being done every day, since it was clear Cisco is eating its own dog food.
Our resident blogger dug deeper and asked whether AppHQ had a play for ISVs, too. McLeod replied ISVs could jump on board and potentially cash in on making Cius-specific apps, and Snyder added VARs could branching out to work with software developers on creating package deals that are market-specific solutions to capture vertical opportunities and more.
Following that line of thinking then, The VAR Guy wonders: Could MSPs offer hosted solutions and then simply re-sell the Cius tablet? “VDI is driving that discussion,” said Snyder, but both agreed that while the described scenario is the future for Cius, right now VARs are primarily just setting people up with the infrastructure they need support the Cius.
If you’re a UC, Cisco or even virtualization VAR, our resident blogger (again) recommends checking in with customers who need a long-overdue refresh. Outside of that scenario, your best bet still may be looking at new customer wins. Cash-strapped IT admins aren’t exactly looking for huge new projects. The good news? Synder said the overwhelming sentiment from CDW customers is love for the Cius. That may trickle into the ears of related industries, families, friends and more.
In wrapping things up, The VAR Guy could help himself and asked McLeod about his feelings on the iPad in the workplace (especially since he happened to be using a MacBook Air). He noted the iPad 2 with video-enabled WebEx is a great tool, and he hopes plenty of people use it, but implied people will “want more” if they really get into using it.
But The VAR Guy is still wary about that all-important barrier to entry. Can Cisco and its partners sell enough of these to impact their bottom line, and subsequently, the enterprise tablet environment? At the end of day, it’s a great product, but there’s a gnawing and creeping curiosity for this channel blogger at large. How soon before someone creates a similar device at a cheaper price point? And more importantly, how many companies are content with WebEx on the iPad? Sometimes, “good enough” really just is good enough, isn’t it?
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