What The Latest Cisco-Apple Moves Could Mean For Partners

The partnership between Cisco and Apple got a little cozier this week as the companies released details of their combined push to make Apple iOS a friendlier place for Cisco's enterprise customers.

Solution providers who spoke with CRN said it’s not entirely clear how much technical substance is really involved, but said that even from a purely marketing angle, the moves still have an upside for partners.

’I think it largely has a branding and marketing benefit to us rather than a technical one,’ said Michael Oh, CTO of TSP, a Cambridge, Mass.-based partner of Apple. ’I can see this as something I bring to a (customer) meeting to show that Apple is enterprise-friendly.’

[See related: 5 Questions Partners Still Have About The Groundbreaking Apple-Cisco Partnership]

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In conjunction with Apple’s WWDC conference this week, new features were announced for Apple’s iOS 10 — available this fall — that will be optimized for use with networking software and hardware from Cisco. The aim: Provide a better user experience on the iPhone and iPad for enterprise calling and collaboration.

The enhancements - part of the Cisco-Apple partnership that was announced in August 2015 - include optimization of how iPhone and iPad communicate with Cisco wireless networks, a ’fast lane’ that prioritizes bandwidth for business-critical apps, and a ’seamless’ experience for users of the Cisco Spark collaboration app on iPhone.

In a statement to CRN, Cisco said that ’these solutions will be sold by partners of Cisco, partners of Apple and partners of both companies.’ Pricing details have not been disclosed to partners.

Cisco and Apple plan to ’take these new solutions to market primarily through our partners,’ Cisco added in the statement.

Brian Davies, vice president of Cisco sales for Carousel Industries, a $540 million solution provider powerhouse that recently acquired Atrion, a Cisco Gold partner, called the Cisco-Apple iOS joint development effort a "huge game changer."

The deal makes the iPhone a robust client in the Cisco collaborative connected workplace, said Davies. "The vision is Cisco collaboration technologies are just there and your Apple iPhone becomes just another device on your Cisco infrastructure without complicated software," he said.

Up until now, Apple iOS has not been a player in the Cisco Collaboration product set, said Davies. "People want to use what they want to use when they want to use it and they don't want a lot of complexity," he said, referring to the Cisco-Apple partnership.

Oh, of TSP, said he sees the benefits of the Cisco-Apple collaboration as playing out over the longer term. ’For Apple, will this move another 1 million iOS devices? Probably not,’ he said. ’But what this is doing is pushing the relevance of the Apple ecosystem for business, outside of BYOD. That will eventually move the needle.’

Overall, it’s ’a great thing to have in front of customers,’ Oh said.

Davies credited Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins with driving partnerships like the Apple deal as part of the networking leader's software transformation.

"Cisco succeeded by making products that were better than everybody else's and they sold those boxes on their own. Now they are working with other companies and co-developing technologies that consumers are demanding," he said. "It's a big change for a company that was making their own products and is now working with a company the size of Apple. Who knows where that will take the two organizations?"