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While Cisco's Cius can run apps from the Android Market or Amazon AppStore, with IT manager approval, Cisco sees AppHQ as a more business-friendly app distribution mechanism, one that allows enterprise IT personnel to control app acquisition, installation, and management on Cisco tablet hardware.
Cisco intends to validate every app in AppHQ, whether it comes from Cisco, third-party Android developers, or enterprise users. Such testing aims to avoid the security issues that have proven to be a problem in a limited number of Android Market apps.
AppHQ looks a lot like other Android app stores on the Web. The primary difference, beyond the shortage of entertainment apps, is a feature called AppHQ Manager, which allows companies to establish customized, branded storefronts, featuring a curated subset of AppHQ apps, for employees.
Cisco is promoting the lack of apps in AppHQ as a selling point for developers. "Your app won't be struggling to be found amongst thousands of others," the company notes on its website, a reference to the difficulty that developers face making people aware of their apps amid the hundreds of thousands other apps the iTunes App Store and the Android Market.
AppHQ will host two types of business-oriented apps, chosen by Cisco: Market Apps and Business Transformation Apps. The former are simply apps written for the Android operating system that run on the Cius; the latter are apps created using Cisco Collaboration APIs, which allow developers to implement call control, performance monitoring, and other activities relevant to Cisco communications systems.
Kara Wilson, VP of marketing at Cisco, described AppHQ as "the industry's first enterprise-grade application storefront," during a video conference announcing the new app store.
Wilson said that "the PC world has been shattered" and that businesses need to adopt "new tool sets" as the need for collaboration rises. By that, she means tablets, which happen to work well as delivery devices for Cisco's communication technologies.
Mike Smith, VP of enterprise communication at Verizon Business, praised his group's experience with the Cius during the video presentation. He noted that it had increased the productivity of sales teams and improved the effectiveness of sales calls.
"We also think it will be really helpful to improve customer satisfaction," he said, speculating that the video conferencing capabilities could be used to help bring experts into conversations quickly.
The Cisco Cius should be available worldwide on July 31, a month after HP launches its webOS-based TouchPad tablet. The Cius is expected to sell for $750.
Research firm Gartner predicts booming tablet sales--mostly Apple iPads--for the next three years. But the firm also anticipates demand for Android OS tablets to rise from 20% of the market in 2011 to 39% in 2015. Its market share predictions for webOS look less rosy: 4% in 2011 and 3% in 2015.
Given the price of the Cius--significantly higher than Apple's iPad--and Cisco's insistence that its Cius is not a device for consumers, Cisco has to be hoping that enterprise demand for devices that can be managed and secured proves stronger than the affinity of employees for more familiar, consumer-oriented devices.
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