If they locked themselves in a meeting or were in transit, IT executives can expect the same question from staff and colleagues for at least the rest of this week: “So what did you think of the whole Apple thing?”
As expected, Apple on Tuesday unveiled multiple products and services designed to secure its position in the consumer technology space. Yet much of what Apple creates is increasingly having an impact on what users expect to be able to do at work. Apple’s iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, its Apple Pay service and even the Apple Watch that will be launched in 2015 may all become something that plays a role in business strategies developed by enterprise users. With that in mind, here are some of the takeaways and action items for chief information officers and IT departments to consider following Apple’s Fall launch event:
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus: For a company whose design philosophy could often be described as “less is more,” it was interesting to see Apple use “Bigger and Bigger” as a tagline for its latest smartphones. However the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus are more notable for the underlying software improvements that make them easier to handle. For example, the Messages app now includes a horizontal display more in keeping with what Android users would expect, but adds dedicated keys for common tasks like cutting and pasting. For business users who have been reluctant to use enterprise apps on a tablet or phone instead of a laptop, the iPhone 6 Plus may be the “phablet’ they’ve been looking for, while tweaks like swiping the screen on an iPhone 6 to navigate Web sites will appeal to corporate types that seek more one-handed modes of operating their device.
On another note, Apple’s newest iPhones will also use long term evolution (LTE) and Wi-Fi ensure that no matter what kind of cell reception is available, a user can take calls via Wi-Fi and later pass it back to the cellular network without any noticeable interruption. It’s that kind of subtle productivity hack that may have users beating a path to get the iPhone 6 to become a part of a bring-your-own device (BYOD) or corporately owned, personally enabled (COPE) program.
Apple Pay: Canada is notoriously slow in e-commerce, and apart from U.S. imports such as Starbucks and its popular PayPal-powered mobile app, there hasn’t been a huge movement to mobile payments so far. Apple Pay, which uses near-field communications (NFC) to capture and store payment information in an encrypted manner, aims to change that. Security fears following last week’s iCloud photo hack of celebrities may be overcome by the fact that credit cards are not used directly but associated with a device-only account number and a dynamic one-time security code. That said, Apple Pay probably won’t be coming to Canada until next year, and could face resistance from the likes of RBC Financial Group, which has already poured considerable resources into its own Secure Cloud and mobile wallet offering. CIOs that want to stand out with convenient mobile payment options for their company’s apps might want to ride off the hype around Apple Pay, but more than likely Canadian firms will be cautious in adopting anything that hasn’t already gained traction in other parts of the world.
Apple Watch: “What could we do with something like that?” the CEO might ask. Well, it depends on what apps are already created and how much an enterprise is willing to invest in building something specific to it. Apple, unsurprisingly, gave no hint of what its partnership with IBM around enterprise apps will mean for the Apple Watch (or the iPhone 6, for that matter), so in the meantime CIOs should ask their team to take a close look at the WatchKit software development kit (SDK) and assess that complexity of building new offerings or porting over old ones. SAP, incidentally, immediately announced iOS 8 support following Apple’s event, so IBM may not be the only player here.
CIOs could also learn something from Apple’s approach to the user interface with the Apple Watch. Instead of pinching and zooming around smart watch apps with their thumb and forefinger (which could be awkward and obscure the screen), Apple is placing much of the functionality in the Apple Watch dial (which it called the digital crown), which means people will turn a knob to scroll through e-mail, select options in apps and so on. This should factor into user experience design in anything CIOs and their teams build in 2015. Also, consider that the emphasis for Apple Watch was clearly on health and fitness tracking. What kind of business information could be conveyed in the form of alerts, notification and so on that would be easier to check by looking at your wrist than taking out your iPhone? That could be the “one more thing” even Tim Cook wouldn’t have imagined.
Apple watch will be available early next year, and start at US$349. It pairs with the iPhone 5, 5C, 5S and the new 6 and 6 Plus.