Apple-Cisco Partnership is a Response to Microsoft's Skype for Business/Lync

WebRTC to WebComms

Apple-Cisco Partnership is a Response to Microsoft's Skype for Business/Lync

By Phil Edholm, President & Founder, PKE Consulting  |  December 08, 2015

The recent announcement that Cisco and Apple (News - Alert) are going to partner to make iDevices more business friendly with the Cisco collaboration products and Cisco-powered networks is a major new focus for both companies.

For Cisco, it is the end of a three-year journey, beginning with Cius and moving through BYOD, to a recognition that a number of enterprise apps will use an enterprise-provided tablet or device that, at least in the U.S., is from Apple. From an Apple perspective, 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 (News - Alert) as the only really integrated communications experiences limits usefulness.

Today, 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 (or at all) with the built-in dialer and contacts. This may 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 Wi-Fi 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 an organization is predominately iDevices, creating a mechanism between those devices and a Cisco Wi-Fi network to manage inbound QoS could dramatically enhance the viability of real-time communications on many Wi-Fi systems. If Cisco and Apple can create a great solution to this, it may open the door to more effective wireless device usage for real-time and UC.

Apple and Cisco probably both see Microsoft (News - Alert) as a major competitor, and the partnership clearly is focused on differentiating from that competition. For Cisco, having an Apple integration and optimization component to compete with the Skype (News - Alert) 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. If Apple enables Cisco to integrate to the dial pad, it would be a major advantage for iDevice users and simplify the dual use of cellular device and UC device. For Apple, a key to growing sales volumes is the enterprise, a market on which Apple has traditionally been less focused. Cisco has one of the best enterprise sales and marketing organizations, and the partnership will enable Apple to develop more enterprise relationships through these optimizations. Further, Microsoft appears to have moved away from a strong consumer mobile device strategy (post Nokia), and is focused on a cross-device commonality with Windows 10 and the ability to develop once and deploy across devices with optimization based on device characteristics. This is clearly focused at the enterprise and using the strong PC presence to extend into enterprise-purchased smartphones and tablets. If successful, this strategy could impact Apple’s position as the leader in enterprise purchased devices, especially tablets. By partnering with Cisco, Apple allies with a leader in the enterprise market to continue its position as the leader in those devices.

One interesting question is what the impact of this will be on WebRTC. Microsoft has “committed” to supporting a version of WebRTC later in 2015 (or 2016) based on ORTC and H.264, Apple has made no such commitment at this point. Cisco has focused a lot of the development in Spark on WebRTC, though it uses the same H.264 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 makes may have long-range impacts on the integration of technologies as well as the emergence of the web-based communications environments.

This partnership illustrates two major points: Mobile is now the future in enterprise as well as consumer, and the enterprise will continue to acquire endpoint technology versus being exclusively based on BYOD. Apple clearly sees the need to be in the enterprise and to influence their buying of Apple devices.

Phil Edholm (News - Alert) is with PKE Consulting LLC (

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere