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Cisco pushes BroadSoft partners to sell Cisco phones, displays

At BroadSoft Connections, the sponsors of which included Polycom and Yealink, Cisco wasn't shy about encouraging BroadSoft partners to begin selling Cisco phones and displays.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Cisco is encouraging the hundreds of service providers that sell BroadSoft cloud calling plans to start marketing Cisco phones and smartboards to their customers, a posture that threatens to undercut BroadSoft's ecosystem of third-party hardware partners.

Cisco repeatedly touted its hardware onstage at the BroadSoft Connections conference this week. It was Cisco's first time running the annual event since acquiring BroadSoft, a cloud PBX company, for $1.9 billion in February.

Cisco has added new device management and provisioning features to its desk phones on the BroadCloud portal. The tools will make it easier for IT administrators to assign phones to new employees and to customize the speed-dial buttons and other settings.

Cisco's phones are also the only devices currently certified to work with a new offering -- sold through service providers -- that combines Cisco Webex Teams and BroadSoft's cloud PBX.  

Meanwhile, the phone makers Polycom, Yealink and Grandstream each paid at least $130,000 to sponsor the BroadSoft Connections conference. They were among dozens of hardware and software vendors that showcased products at the conference expo.

David Li, CEO of Grandstream, said he had anticipated Cisco would make an effort to showcase its hardware at the event. Grandstream's longtime partnership with BroadSoft service providers is a significant part of its business, he said.

"If they keep the ecosystem open, then it's fine. We will just compete on the open market," Li said. "But if they leverage the platform and make it a closed ecosystem -- if that happens, that would be a concern."

IPFone, a BroadSoft service provider based in Miami, currently offers Polycom and Yealink phones to its customers. But the company is now considering selling Cisco phones, possibly at the expense of the other two vendors.

"It looks like it's easier to get a Cisco phone working with [BroadSoft] than any other brand," said Ronald Cabrera, vice president of technology at IPFone. "In the future, we are thinking about implementing Cisco phones because of the integration and all these new features."

Cisco also tried to convince BroadSoft partners to sell Webex Boards, large touchscreen devices for conference rooms. The product is designed for use with the Cisco Webex collaboration suite, which Cisco is beginning to package with BroadSoft deals.

Cisco will likely use the BroadSoft acquisition to sell more software, too. Andy Voss, co-founder and CEO of Sansay Inc., which makes session border controllers (SBCs), said he would be surprised if Cisco didn't start pushing Cisco SBCs on BroadSoft partners.

"They are a sales machine," Voss said. "The two takeaways from the conference are buy more Cisco products and buy them faster. If you heard any different, let me know."

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