Cisco, Apple Team Up to Drive iOS Devices Into Enterprise

The two companies will optimize Cisco's networking systems for iPhones and iPads and enhance how they work with its collaboration tools.

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Apple is forging a partnership with Cisco Systems to help drive sales of its iPhones and iPads into the corporate market.

The two companies on Aug. 31 announced a strategic partnership in which Cisco will optimize its networking gear for Apple's iOS devices and software, will work to streamline the way iPhones work with their desk phones and will enhance the experience iPhones and iPads users have when using them with Cisco's broad array of collaboration tools, including TelePresence video conferencing systems, WebEx online conferencing and Spark platform.

"We are coming together to optimize Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, integrating iPhones with Cisco environments and providing unique collaboration capabilities on iPhones and iPads," Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins wrote in a post on the company blog. "Together, we will enable mobile apps and experiences that deliver the quality and experience we need while meeting enterprise requirements for management and security."

The deal reportedly was negotiated between Apple CEO Tim Cook and John Chambers, Cisco's former longtime CEO who now is executive chairman and chairman of the board. iOS is playing a key role in the mobile strategy of many large enterprises, according to Cook.

"iPhone and iPad have become essential tools for the modern workforce and are changing the way work gets done," Cook said in a statement. "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."

The deal comes at a time when Apple continues to sell a lot of iPhones, but as the tablet market—and iPad sales with it—shrinks. IDC analysts last week said they expect tablet shipments worldwide will fall 8 percent this year, compared with 2014, a significant readjustment from the previous forecast of a 3.8 percent decline. In all, 212 million tablets will ship this year, with 54 million of those being iPads.

Apple has seen its tablet sales decline for the past several quarters, though revenue for the iPhone in the more recent quarter was up 59 percent over the same period last year.

Company officials have been looking to increase the presence of both the iPhone and the iPad in the corporate world. Apple and IBM announced a deal last year in which the two companies would work to help create mobile apps for enterprises in hopes of enabling the device maker to play a larger role in the business realm and to give IBM a stronger mobile strategy.

By the end of the year, the two companies had created a number of apps for such industries as banking, finance, airlines and retail.

Now with Cisco, Apple has joined forces with the world's largest networking and collaboration technology vendor. The deal could be a boon for both, giving Apple access to Cisco's massive corporate customers while enabling Cisco to pitch its products to enterprise executives who use iPhones and iPads and whose companies are being forced to adopt bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies to address the demands raised by workers who are using their own smartphones and tablets for work.

"In today's world, technology is changing how we work every day," Cisco's Robbins wrote. "We're always on the go—working from anywhere in the world at any time, and we're increasingly dependent on our mobile devices to keep us connected. We want the best user experience regardless of where we are, and we want to know that we can always connect, that our connection is secure, and that our enterprise apps will simply work."

Robbins said engineers from both companies will focus their initial efforts on enhancing the performance of iOS devices on Cisco networks and extending Cisco's unified communications capabilities to the iPhone. In addition, they will work to optimize the experience of iOS device users on the Cisco collaboration products.