Monday, July 11, 2011

Beginning of end for desktop feature phone

Richard Edwards, Principal Analyst, Ovum

AUSTRALIA: Unike the hugely popular Apple iPad, the seven-inch, Android-based Cius was designed with the company’s existing customer base in mind and is, in Ovum’s opinion, destined to replace the corporate desktop feature phone that Cisco sells today. Cisco has also launched an “enterprise” app store, AppHQ. This new service addresses many of the concerns of business and IT managers, but its Cius-only focus limits its utility and value.

One per desk
The market for hard IP phones is estimated to be 15–18 units this year, and Cisco’s device will probably account for approximately one-third of this number. However, with knowledge workers in particular abandoning their feature phones in favor of the smartphone and contact center managers eyeing up the thin-client market, Cisco needs to come up with a convincing replacement device that is able to satisfy the needs of the business as well as the end user.

The Cius presents a reasonably good replacement for an IP-based feature phone. Key features of the device include support for the company’s high-end video conferencing system and tight integration with its business social software, Cisco Quad. However, perhaps the most alluring feature of the Cius is its ability to replace the traditional desktop PC through the use of virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI).

To accomplish this transformation, the Cius must be used alongside desktop virtualization solutions from the likes of Citrix, VMware, or Wyse. The transformation of the Cius tablet into a PC replacement is completed by using the optional (and somewhat expensive) HD media station with its USB ports, wired Ethernet connectivity, and handset option. To some, this configuration will sound remarkably like the ICL One Per Desk (rebadged the “Merlin Tonto” by BT) of the early 1980s, but this time the user can put it in his or pocket.

Ovum has yet to be convinced that the Cisco Cius is going to be a winner in the enterprise tablet market, but if the following points are all true, further investigation is undoubtedly warranted:

* Cisco is strategic vendor.
* VDI and convergence are seen as business enablers (mobility, agility, flexibility).
* The Android platform is the organization’s mobile OS of choice.
* The price is right.

Cisco’s enterprise appstore
Apple’s iOS devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, have already scaled the corporate firewall and are in use daily within organizations large and small. Like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, corporate IT managers are now getting their feet wet as senior business mangers look to them for support and integration of these innovative devices.

Currently, most iOS devices are being used to access corporate email and a collection of cloud-based services. Commercial apps can, of course, be purchased, downloaded, and installed by users through Apple’s App Store. However, if an organization wants to distribute an app to its employees, the app must be routed through Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program – a process of which some enterprises are wary. In addition, IT managers want to control what app users have access to, lest they introduce risk and compliance issues.

Cisco has always played a role in enterprise IT security and governance and, in Ovum’s opinion, the announcement of Cisco AppHQ (described by the company as an enterprise-class application ecosystem) represents a significant step forward in the app market as it provides business users, IT managers, and developers with a trusted source for tested and validated business-centric apps. Ovum has not yet determined if AppHQ is any less convoluted than Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program, but Cisco is inferring as much.

Cisco AppHQ Manager builds on the capabilities of AppHQ and provides IT managers with much-needed administration and control facilities. Using AppHQ, organizations can control which apps users have access to (including Android Market and Amazon AppStore) and how these are paid for. Today, AppHQ is solely for Cius tablets, but Cisco has not ruled out supporting other tablet devices in the future. This is something Ovum believes is crucial to ensuring the long-term success of this important market initiative.

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