Apple Enhances iOS Integration With Cisco Collaboration Tools

Tighter integration of Apple's OS with Cisco's Spark and WebEx technologies is designed to make it easier to use iPhones and iPads in the enterprise.

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Cisco Systems and Apple officials are beginning to build out the strategy they outlined almost a year ago when the two companies announced a partnership designed to drive Apple mobile devices deeper into the enterprise.

At Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week, company officials laid out new features of the company's upcoming iOS 10 for its iPhones and iPads, which included new capabilities built into the mobile operating system that will enable the devices to work with Cisco's collaboration tools.

The new features are the result of work done by both Cisco and Apple since the two companies announced their collaboration in August 2015, according to Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Internet of Things (IoT) and Collaboration Technology Group.

At the time of the announcement, the two companies said that Cisco would optimize its networking and collaboration gear for Apple devices and software based on its iOS operating system, enhancing the experience iPhone and iPad users have when using them with Cisco's broad portfolio of collaboration tools, including TelePresence video conferencing systems, WebEx online conferencing and the Spark collaboration platform.

"Engineers, user experience and design teams from Cisco and Apple have been working side by side and testing together to make sure you have a truly delightful experience with your iPhone and iPad on your company's Cisco assets," Trollope wrote in a post on the company blog. "And today, as Apple introduces iOS 10, we've reached a major milestone."

With the integration work done by the companies, iPhone and iPad devices will be able to communicate with Cisco wireless networks, which will find the best available wireless access point and will select the access point by default, he wrote. It also could help drive down the cost of the call by putting it on the Cisco network.

"This makes the performance of all your apps, especially real-time apps like voice and video, much more reliable, particularly when you are on the move," Trollope wrote.

In addition, when iPhone and iPad users are on a Cisco WebEx or Spark call, business-critical calls and applications are given prioritization over less important traffic, making it easier for users to get work done on their devices. For example, users running a Spark or WebEx meeting would get priority over an employee looking at videos on the Internet.

In addition, Cisco's Spark collaboration platform is optimized for the Apple devices, and the Spark app is installed on iOS 10. Through this integration, users will be able to make a voice-over-IP (VOIP) call via the Spark app rather than having to launch third-party software.

"The integration doesn't stop there," Trollope wrote. "You'll also enjoy other native iOS calling features with Cisco Spark—calls will now ring on the lock screen, just like a regular call, users will have access to mute and call waiting."

In addition, iPhone and iPad users can employ the Apple Siri feature to use Spark to call contacts in their People app.

The integrations will help Apple as it competes with Samsung and its devices for greater traction in the enterprise. At a time when the number of mobile devices is proliferating and employees adopt the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) mindset to their work, systems like iPhones, iPads and Samsung's Galaxy devices increasingly are being used for business.

It also comes at a time when the tablet market continues to contract and the number of smartphones shipments is slowing. Analysts at IDC said earlier this month that sales of smartphones will remain sluggish throughout 2016, with about 1.5 billion handsets being sold this year, a 7 percent increase over 2015.

In a blog post at the time the partnership was announced last year, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said the Apples devices "have become essential tools for the modern workforce and are changing the way work gets done. Together with Cisco, we believe we can give businesses the tools to maximize the potential of iOS and help employees become even more productive using the devices they already love."