Apple and Cisco Partner for Enterprise Mobility
The announcement yesterday that Apple and Cisco are going to work together to make iDevices more business friendly on Cisco networks and with the Cisco collaboration products is a significant change for both companies. For Cisco, it is the end of a three-year journey, starting with Cius and moving though BYOD to a recognition that a number of enterprise apps will use an enterprise-provided tablet or device and that, at least in the U.S., Apple is that preferred device. For Apple, it is the recognition that, at least in the enterprise, the Apple devices do not exist in a bubble, and limiting users to the built-in dial pad or FaceTime as the only really integrated communications experiences limits usefulness.
The reality is that there are lots of people building apps that have communications integration that run on iPhones and iPads, however, few of them are well integrated, and none integrate well with the built-in dialer and contacts. This may well change as Apple works with Cisco to integrate Spark and other Cisco collaboration products with the iDevices. It is clear that this may introduce a whole new range of capabilities that are much more tightly integrated.
While somewhat more hidden, the optimization at a network level could be critical, especially if it extends into WiFi and other wireless environments. A key weakness in most wireless environments is the lack of QoS and issues that can emerge with real-time traffic mixed with other traffic. If Cisco and Apple can create a great solution to this, it may open the door to more effective wireless device usage.
Together, Apple and Cisco both see Microsoft as a huge competitor, and this partnership is clearly focused at differentiating both in that competition. For Cisco, having an Apple component to compete with the Skype for Business/Lync onslaught is a critical value. By delivering an optimized iDevice integration to its collaboration platforms, Cisco may be able to differentiate from others, especially Microsoft. For Apple, a key to driving volumes is the enterprise, where Apple has traditionally been less focused. Cisco brings one of the best enterprise sales and marketing organizations and the partnership will enable Apple to develop more enterprise relationships through these optimizations.
A final question is what the impact of this will be on WebRTC. While Microsoft has “committed” to supporting a version of WebRTC later in 2015 (or 2016), Apple has made no such commitment. Much of the Cisco product offering in Spark is WebRTC based, though it uses the same h264 codec as Apple. It will be very interesting to see if WebRTC plays a role in this partnership or if this integration will focus on more traditional technologies like SIP or will use the proprietary technologies of FaceTime. The choices that this partnership make may do much to define both the competitive environment of the future as well as the potential for interoperability of the next generation of solutions.
It sure looks like mobile is the next battleground and the lines are being drawn.
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