Cisco is joining the tablet party, albeit with a device aimed specifically at business customers. The Android-based Cius has a 7 inch multi-touch display, weighs just 1.15 pounds and comes with cameras front and back. It's powered by an Atom processor supported by a gigabyte of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage.

Rather than challenge Apple's current dominance of the consumer market, Cisco's new 7 inch business tablet computer is being pitched as a secure, highly portable, lightweight yet powerful solution for a mobile workforce. The company's Tony Bates said, "This platform can transform how healthcare professionals advance patient care; how retailers deliver service experiences to consumers, or how universities deliver world-class education to their students."

The Cius runs on Android 2.2 and is configured to make the most of collaboration applications such as Cisco Quad, Cisco Show and Share, Cisco WebEx Connect, Cisco WebEx Meeting Center, and Cisco Presence. Businesses with existing Cisco networks will no doubt be pleased to learn that the company has promised easy integration thanks to support from Cisco Unified Communications Manager.

Said to be capable of handling high definition video, both streaming and real-time (to facilitate video conferencing), the Cius sports a 7 inch, 1024 x 600, WSVGA capacitive touchscreen LCD, with 3-axis accelerometer and ambient light sensor. The video conferencing (or should we say multi-party conferencing) is made possible via a 720p/30 frames per second camera to the front and dual noise-canceling microphones. There's also a 5 megapixel camera at the rear capable of VGA quality video and still image capture, with 8x digital zoom.

The 8.85 x 5.5 x 0.59 inch device is powered by a 1.6 GHz Atom processor, ably supported by 1GB of RAM and 32GB eMMC flash memory. Cisco claims eight hours from the user replaceable 5200 mAh battery. There's onboard 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and 3G capability, with 4G being introduced at a later date. Bluetooth 3.0 with EDR is also present, to complete the line-up of wireless networking solutions catering to virtual desktop integration. Physical connectivity on the unit comes in the shape of a miniUSB port, microSD slot, HDMI-out and a headphone jack.

There's also an optional docking station which comes with three USB ports, a display connection, headphone jack, ethernet port and a telephone handset in either standard or slimline. When docked in the high definition audio station, it does have an updated Amstrad Emailer look about it.

No doubt to the delight of those responsible for data security, user management and software licensing, the software applications used on the Cius can be hosted on a data center server and made available over the network as a service to users. Third party business-class applications are also available via Google's Android Market (with appropriate management controls, of course) and user generated content can be stored locally or online.

Cisco says that customer trials will begin soon with general availability penciled in for early next year.