The device was demonstrated at the Cisco Live customer event here by CEO John Chambers with a live videoconferencing transmission over the tablet from researchers on a submarine in the Aegean Sea. The audio portion of the demonstration broke up slightly, but the video was constant. A satellite link was included in the connection and added some minor delay.
Chambers showed how the Cius (pronounced "see us") can be held in a wired docking station for desktop use and then carried as a mobile tablet when needed.
Cisco posted specifications for the new device, but pricing wasn't announced.
The device works with cellular 3G and 4G networks, as well as with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. High-definition 720p video is supported, Cisco said. It will be generally available in the first quarter of 2011.
The tablet weighs 1.15 lbs. and has a detachable eight-hour battery. An Intel Atom 1.6-GHz processor powers the device.
While Cisco's online information describes a 7-in. device, Chambers also demonstrated what appeared to be a slightly smaller version of the Cius for use by students. But Cisco representatives said it was not a smaller device, just one that also has a 7-in.screen, but placed in a smaller dock.
Ken Dulaney, an analyst at research firm Gartner, said that "there will be a broad tendency to compare the Cius to the Apple iPad," but that the Cius is really an "upgrade to a worker's desktop, replacing the desk phone" with more interactivity for video.
But Dulaney said he is concerned about what price Cisco will charge for the device, whose 7-in. screen is smaller than the iPad's 10-in. screen. "And possibly [I'm concerned] that people in the marketplace just want iPads," he added.
Cisco got the name Cius from a combination of "Ci," for the first two letters of Cisco's name, and "Us." The resulting word is a play on "see us," reflecting the tablet's videoconferencing capabilities.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
This story was corrected after first publishing with the device's correct weight, 1.15 pounds. Originally we had reported the device weighed 1.5 pounds.