Apple teams with Cisco to create 'fast lane' to optimize iOS business data traffic

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Cisco Systems are collaborating to optimize Cisco's networking gear for iOS enterprise users, part of a larger push Apple is making to get its iPhones and iPads into more business customers' hands.

The two companies said they are also working together to "deliver experiences specially optimized for iOS across mobile, cloud, and premises-based collaboration tools." Those include Cisco Spark, the network vendor's mobile messaging application, Cisco Telepresence and Cisco WebEx for video conferencing.  

As Bloomberg notes, the collaboration will mean that iPhone users could click on a calendar appointment and immediately start a videoconference or the Spark chat app, instead of having to pull up each separately. The companies are also looking to integrate contacts on workers' iPhones with their Cisco-provided desk phones and have calls to desk phones automatically ring on both that phone and a person's iPhone.  

However, the companies' work to establish what they both call a "fast lane" for iOS devices in the enterprise market is definitely the most intriguing aspect of the partnership, especially for wireless carriers.

Apple and Cisco are going to partner to prioritize wireless and wired Internet connections so that critical business applications aren't compromised by non-work traffic like random YouTube videos, according to The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, Bloomberg notes that Cisco is also trying 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-provided networks won't have to download it from a data center far away. Apple is set to release its iOS 9 software update later this month.

It's unclear if the optimization that Apple and Cisco are discussing would run afoul of the FCC's net neutrality rules. The regulations say that a network management practice will be considered reasonable if it is primarily aimed at "achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service." The practice needs to be related to a "technical network management justification" and not business practices.

An FCC spokesman did not immediately have a comment.

"This is a major strategic partnership, something that neither company has done before," Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, told Bloomberg. "We have a shared vision of a completely seamless experience." 

Engineers from both companies have been working together for 10 months, and Cisco and Apple salespeople will go on joint sales calls, Trollope told Bloomberg.

Trollope told Re/code that while Cisco will continue to support mobile devices running on rival platforms like Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android, its relationship with Apple is unique. "We're not going to do this with anyone else," he said. "We'll continue to work with the other platforms, but if we had wanted to do a deal like this around Android, the first question we'd have to ask is which Android? There's so much fragmentation on that platform, there's no clear place to start," he said.

The deal was negotiated directly between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Cisco Chairman John Chambers and was unveiled at Cisco's annual sales meeting in Las Vegas. Padmasree Warrior, Cisco's outgoing CTO and chief strategy officer, was also a key executive involved in the deal.

Apple's deal with Cisco builds on a similar one the iPhone maker struck in July 2014 with IBM. Apple and IBM, once bitter rivals, agreed to collaborate on creating mobile applications for specific enterprise solutions, known as IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions. Apple has developed a sales program with technology companies that create apps targeted at businesses, the WSJ noted. IBM also agreed to sell iPhones and iPads to its business customers. The deal reflected Apple's desire to get its iOS software more deeply embedded in the enterprise segment as well as IBM's push into the mobile market. 

In its last fiscal year, which ended July 25, Cisco posted $4 billion in revenue in its collaboration business unit, which includes its WebEx and Spark products. Cisco has promised that with Apple it will deliver some "unique collaboration" experiences for the iPhone and iPad.

For more:
- see this Apple release
- see this Cisco release
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this ZDNet article 
- see this Re/code article 

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