Apple is joining Cisco Systems in making its mobile devices work better with corporate networks using Cisco's equipment, part of a push by Apple to expand sales to business customers.
The partnership, announced on Monday by Cisco executive chairman John Chambers and Apple chief executive Tim Cook at Cisco's annual sales meeting in Las Vegas, will make it easier to use iPhones and iPads together with Cisco's products, such as business phones, videoconferencing systems and the WebEx online meeting service.
Last year, Apple and IBM Corp. set aside a three-decade-old rivalry to create business software for iPhone and iPad users, seeking to cater to an increasingly mobile workforce. While Apple is pursuing a bigger slice of the market for corporate users of smartphones and tablets. the likes of IBM and Cisco are looking for opportunities in the mobile-computing boom.
"This is a major strategic partnership, something that neither company has done before," said Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group.
Engineers from both companies have been working together for 10 months, and Cisco and Apple sales agents will go on joint sales calls, he said.
For example, people using the iPhone to join a conference call will be able launch a videoconference and Cisco's Spark chat application with one click, instead of having to pull up each application separately, Trollope said.
The companies are also working on behind-the-scenes networking enhancements. A video conference that's critical to close a deal can be given more bandwidth priority over YouTube video streams to desktops. Cisco is also developing ways to help companies prevent network slowdowns when Apple releases updates to its iOS software, by storing parts of Apple's software code so that iPhone owners on Cisco networks won't have to download it from a far-off data centers.
With sales of iPhones to consumers slowing, companies are becoming more of a priority for Apple, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Anurag Rana. Apple has said that more than 95 percent of large companies have employees using its products, mostly because they insist on being able to use their personal devices for work. Apple has only recently started to customize its products for office workers' specific needs.
"Apple's closed nature has always made it very difficult for enterprises to use iOS because they cannot customize it," Rana said. "This could make their products somewhat more appealing to enterprise IT. The big question is how far is Apple willing to go to please the IT department, from being an absolute closed operating system. It's a step in the right direction."