Apple's move to partner with Cisco to give iOS apps a performance boost on enterprise networks highlights how the company sees corporate customers as a boon to cash flow and smoothing out product cycles.
On Monday, Apple outlined a partnership with Cisco that'll optimize the networking giant's gear and software for iOS apps and devices. The iPhone and iPad will also have collaboration software that will link desk and mobile phones.
Here's the bottom line with Apple's Cisco partnership. With the deal, Apple gains distribution and high-level collaboration with another large enterprise player that has no skin in the mobile operating system game. Cisco doesn't care whether iOS or Android win in the enterprise or about end devices. Cisco's focus is on the data running through corporate networks.
Apple's Cisco partnership rhymes with its collaboration with IBM a little more than a year ago. IBM also doesn't have skin in mobile OS or device game. IBM is working with Apple to push its mobile device management and analytics software and services. Apple gets distribution and throughput into corporations. Apple and IBM are working to create unique enterprise apps.
At least on the enterprise side of the equation, Apple's approach is to ensure that mobile apps are what keeps corporations in the fold. No longer satisfied with relying on bring your own device as the entry to corporations, Apple is grabbing distribution. Apple is aiming to give iOS unique advantages: Easy to use enterprise apps that have a fast lane.
Why a Cisco partnership works for Apple
In the short-term, the biggest boon to Apple is that it will collaborate with Cisco on go-to-market plans. That move alone will give Apple more distribution than before. Apple obviously doesn't want to build a massive enterprise sales team on its own.
Where things get interesting is the Apple-Cisco engineering partnership. What can Apple and Cisco do to speed up performance on apps? Can Cisco optimize for iOS in a way that will provide an advantage that employees and CXOs will notice?
Cisco will also integrate its collaboration software and cloud to hop from the desk to the iPhone seamlessly. Cisco has been stepping up its collaboration game in recent months.
It remains to be seen how Cisco and Apple work together, but even based on distribution the deal appears to be win-win. If the partnership between Cisco and Apple works out, it's likely there will be a cadence similar to the collaboration with IBM. IBM and Apple have launched a steady stream of enterprise bundles and apps that highlight iOS and the devices as well as Big Blue's analytics.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to speak at Box's BoxWorks conference Sept. 29. That appearance will come 20 days after Apple unveils its new iPhones.
Cook, an enterprise veteran who formerly worked for IBM, is increasingly seeing his company as a premier corporate player. Cook said on Apple's July 21 earnings conference call that the company has landed iPad wins at United and has more than 500 active enterprise engagements. Cook also added that he is pleased with the IBM partnership, which has hooked Apple up with a big deal at Japan Post.
He also said that apps are the main way into corporations:
We also continue to work closely with leading business software and solution providers to help businesses of all sizes transform work with iPad and iPhone. The number of these mobility partners has expanded rapidly to over 40. They're developing new and differentiated solutions on iOS across many industries and attracting very significant customer interest.
Analysts have noticed.
Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um said in a research note:
CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to speak at Box's BoxWorks conference on September 29th which is focused on enterprise cloud services. While we do not expect any new Apple product announcements at the event, Apple's presence at an enterprise-focused event is interesting and points to the company's increased focus on the market.
Few analysts have attempted to put a number on enterprise sales, but Apple could move enough devices to offset turbulence in China, a slowdown in iPad sales and even give its Apple Watch a boost.
All of these enterprise moves by Apple presage what most folks expect to be an iPad Pro. This large screen tablet is expected to be a hybrid to appeal to corporations looking to consolidate buying cycles. Enterprises don't want a PC buying cycle and one for tablets. That reality is why Microsoft's Surface Pro is popular and 2-in-1 devices are expected to post the best growth in the tablet market.