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Apple and Cisco partner to bolster iOS in the enterprise

Apple is looking to Cisco for a bigger bite of the enterprise market. What can CIOs take away from the Apple-Cisco deal? Also in Searchlight: Samsung takes on the Apple Watch; Google unveils a new logo.

You might have heard: Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced at Cisco's annual sales meeting in Las Vegas on Monday that their companies plan on making Apple devices work more effectively on corporate networks that use Cisco technology.

The announcement had a couple of highlights. One, the executives said that they plan to make it easier for these devices to work with Cisco's collaboration tools, including the Spark chat application, TelePresence video conferencing and the WebEx online meeting service.

Another highlight was Apple and Cisco's plan to create "fast lanes" for iOS devices, a setup in which business-critical apps would be given bandwidth priority over nonbusiness connections. For instance, a hospital network will give priority to a doctor video conferencing with a patient via her iPad, over a patient in the same hospital streaming cat videos.

Wade through the buzz, however, and you'll find there are scant specifics on how Apple and Cisco plan to carry this out.

Without concrete details, experts said the deal is currently little more than a marketing play -- another attempt by Apple to stoke user demand for its devices in enterprises (in particular, the iPad) and shore up its credibility in the corporate realm.

Who will benefit?

The partnership -- 10 months in the making, according to Cook -- sounds promising, industry analysts said. And certainly the matchup of two brand names makes for a good marketing story. Until more specifics are disclosed, however, the benefits for business users are not entirely clear.

"There will clearly be some integration on the telephony front, but that is not groundbreaking. And the highlighted fast lane for iOS remains a question until the details are revealed," Van L. Baker, mobility analyst at Gartner Inc., based in Stamford, Conn., said over email.

Andrew Bartels, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass., questioned another aspect of Apple's announcement -- namely, the promise about "optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps."

"What really needs to be optimized? Because presumably, Cisco networks will work with any smartphone device in terms of transmission of data and sending of information," he said, characterizing the user benefits as mostly "marketing hype" -- at this point anyway.

Bartels said that waning iPad sales in the consumer market, coupled with the popularity of Apple device use among enterprise employees (Apple claimed in the announcement that more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies uses its products) were likely major drivers for the partnership.

"The corporate market is one in which the Apple brand still has a strong pull with employees. It also allows them to sustain a prime premium that has become a little harder to sustain in the consumer market" because of competition from more inexpensive Android devices, he said, adding that strong employee demand for the iPad, in particular, is a market Apple wants to preserve. Cisco, which in turn benefits from its association with a popular name brand, can help do that.

"It is a good partnership for both companies and helps Apple gain more credibility in the enterprise," agreed Gartner's Baker.

CIO reassurance

For CIOs, the Apple-Cisco deal, like last year's deal with IBM, amounts to another assurance that Apple is willing and able to play nice with corporate IT systems, Bartels said. There is a lingering perception that Apple devices are harder to use in a typical corporate environment, because many enterprise systems are still designed around the assumption that employees will be using a Windows device.  These kinds of partnerships "relieve that perception."

"This [deal] says … vendors are committed to making sure that, indeed, the iOS devices that your employees might want to use will be supported [and] will be handled; there will be no issues for them," Bartels said.

CIO news roundup for week of Aug. 31

Here is more technology news from the week:

  • Samsung is gunning for Apple. This week, it unveiled the new Gear S2 smartwatch, the latest addition to the company's six other smartwatch models. Like the Apple Watch, the Gear S2 features a rotating watch face for navigation; has a fitness tracker; allows for mobile payments; enables text messaging; and offers "glance-able" notifications for meetings, emails, calls and news. The watch will run on Tizen, Samsung's own OS, but is able to work on Android phones running Android 4.4 or higher. It won't be as smooth as with a Samsung phone, though.
  • In the wake of recent organizational restructuring, Google unveiled another huge change: a new logo. The new Google logo, which replaced a 16-year-old one that has become an icon to many, retained its predecessor's color scheme -- but that's about all it has in common with the old one. What do the designers think? It's a mixed bag.
  • James L. Flanagan, pioneer in the field of electroacoustics and voice communications, died of heart failure Tuesday, at the age of 89. We have Mr. Flanagan to thank for such advancements as digital assistants, mp3s and teleconferencing, among many others.
  • Bored? There's an app for that. Researchers at Telefonica Research in Barcelona created an algorithm that can predict whether you are bored based on what you are doing with your phone. The study asked participants to rate their level of boredom over the course of two weeks, then compared that data with information about how many apps they used at times when they were and were not bored. You can probably guess the result.

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups on the stock market's impact on IT budgets and whether the Ashley Madison hack will push consumer privacy to the fore.

Next Steps

Read more about Cisco's iOS fast lanes on sister site SearchMobileComputing. Then, see previous Searchlight columns on Apple and Cisco: Apple and IBM team up to bring industry-specific apps to enterprises; Chuck Robbins replaces IT legend John Chambers as Cisco CEO.

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