Partners: Blockbuster Deal Could Bridge Gap Between Apple iPhone, Cisco Enterprise VoIP

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Solution providers Monday cheered a blockbuster Cisco-Apple partnership that they said could lead to tighter integration between Apple iPhones and iPads, and Cisco enterprise collaboration products.

"Right now, the Apple iPhone and Cisco VoIP worlds are segregated," said Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 232 on the CRN Solution Provider 500. "This could be a way to merge them and, in the process, bring corporations a better return on investment and time around iPhones and iPads in corporate network environments. We are looking forward to some time lines, direction and details on what they are trying to accomplish here."

Cisco and Apple Monday said they are teaming to optimize Cisco networks for Apple iOS-based devices and apps. Cisco said it will also optimize collaboration tools like Cisco Spark, Cisco Telepresence and Cisco WebEx on iOS devices, allowing the company to deliver business services across mobile and cloud environments. Apple and Cisco also will work together to make the iPhone a better business collaborations tool in Cisco voice and video environments.

[Related: Apple Goes On Enterprise Offensive With New VAR Rebate Incentives]

Apple and Cisco provided no specific product integration plans or time line around the partnership. A Cisco spokesperson said via email that the deal includes both joint engineering and go-to-market efforts, and that the fruits of the partnership will be available through both the direct and indirect sales channels of both companies. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Venero said he envisions the deal will break down barriers between Apple and Cisco technologies by allowing Apple iPhones or iPads -- often a large piece of partner-built Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions --  to instantly become an extension of the corporate VoIP network.

"If your iPhone instantly becomes your corporate handset once you walk into a company, that would be pretty valuable," he said. "There are ways to do that today, but it's pretty kludgey. Tighter integration of the two products could bring a broader, feature-rich iPhone experience in a Cisco VoIP environment."

Venero added he is hoping the two companies will quickly articulate a channel strategy around the new deal. "As an enterprise VAR, I'm looking forward to somebody at Apple and Cisco reaching out to us to give us details."

The blockbuster deal signifies another strategic move by Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple to make its iPad and iPhone devices more appealing to enterprise customers, said Jack Narcotta, devices analyst at research firm Technology Business Research. "It is in the same vein as making sure the devices that Apple is making are in sync with the application demand of a changing workplace," Narcotta said.

The company inked a partnership with IBM in July 2014, aimed at driving its iOS devices into the enterprise. The deal allowed IBM to build more than 100 industry-specific apps for iOS devices, and resell Apple iPhones and iPads.

Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif.-based Apple and Cisco partner, said the deal would be crucial for Apple to push its devices into the enterprise market.

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