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What's the deal with Apple-Cisco deal?

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 3, 2015
Analysts parse vague statement, try to figure out what partnership means for Apple's enterprise strategy.

Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers, left, and Apple CEO Tim Cook at Cisco's Global Sales Experience Conference in Las Vegas, where they announced a mobile enterprise partnership on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. Credit: Cisco Systems

Apple earlier this week expanded its push into enterprises, announcing a partnership with Cisco to sell more iPads and iPhones to businesses.

But unlike the deal Apple struck with IBM last summer, the partnership with Cisco was outlined in only the broadest terms. The vagueness put off one analyst.

"The IBM announcement provided context, a list of bullet points that would be done, like 'We will develop these apps,'" said Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research. "But [the Cisco announcement] was just lots of analogies, like 'create a fast lane.' What does that actually mean? Does it mean iOS traffic will be prioritized? Is it related to routing? Why not come out and say it?"

The joint statement issued by Apple and Cisco on Monday was short on details, as Dawson pointed out. "Apple and Cisco today announced a partnership to create a fast lane for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps, integrating iPhone with Cisco enterprise environments and providing unique collaboration on iPhone and iPad," the statement began.

Because the partnership was described in such hazy terms, Dawson wondered whether there's much to it. "One possibility is that there is nothing to this, and it's like so many tech partnerships, where it's just two companies that think they can benefit from having their names linked," said Dawson.

The other possibility, added Dawson, is that Apple and Cisco have reached agreement on a broad outline but haven't yet fleshed out the details.

Another analyst wasn't as bothered by the generalities, but admitted that there was a difference between this partnership announcement and that of Apple and IBM in 2014. "[The statement] didn't bring nearly as much detail as the prior one with IBM," acknowledged Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "But remember, it was IBM who disclosed the details of the partnership last year. So this [vagueness] could have been Cisco's idea."

That the Apple and Cisco partnership was outlined only in broad strokes is more than just academic interest -- or analyst angst -- because it leaves experts in the dark about its significance, and thus whether the deal means increased sales of the iPhone and iPad, in particular the latter, which has been in a six-quarter contraction.

Moorhead saw some intriguing opportunities for both Apple and Cisco, including enterprise-wide substitution of traditional office telephony and video collaboration with iPhones and iPads.


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