Like everyone, I was wide-eyed and paying close attention to Apple’s announcement Wednesday; not only to see what was going to be unveiled, but to discern what impact those announcements would have on the industry. The event left me both excited and terrified – some announcements are what dreams are made of, while others might make up someone’s worst nightmare – especially for those in IT and Information Security.
First … the stuff of dreams
The announcement of iOS9 a few months ago foreshadowed the inevitable release of “bigger, better, faster” hardware and devices designed to make use of the new features within the OS. Wednesday’s event was no different, with the announcement of an impressive new array of devices for home, mobile, and the office designed to delight and dazzle the average consumer, and (hopefully) compel them to upgrade to the latest and greatest Apple offering.
One platform that really stood out to me – even as an avowed iPad pessimist – was the iPad Pro. To date, iPads in general have been nothing more than a toy for enterprises; they’ve lacked the horsepower, battery life, and productivity apps necessary to move the budget needle for most serious companies. But that may change with this latest offering. Featuring a class-leading processor in the A9X, a powerful graphics chip, smart energy conservation, and an elegant set of input mechanisms, this is a device I can see being used in a number of enterprise settings. For example, design and creative teams sketching wireframes, boardroom collaboration on spreadsheets and charts, and meaningful – not gimmicky – presentations anywhere. Until now, without the iOS9 capabilities for multi-app usage and lacking the horsepower to drive enterprise-class apps, the iPad had been relegated to personal note-taking in the enterprise and treated as a second-class device in the world of IT.
A few key elements to the power of this new iPad Pro: the 3D Touch, the Keyboard, and the Pencil. Since each of these will have hundreds of articles written about them, I will just point out the things about them that resonated with me.
- The 3D Touch opens a new dimension (quite literally) in navigation. It enables applications to open up and display inner contents or provide contextual menus, and it provides much-needed efficiency to touch-based productivity apps.
- The keyboard input, as commonplace as it is today with laptops, desktops, and even older iPads, was sorely lacking the “Apple finish” until now. Its addition to the iPad Pro makes for a seamless, integrated, elegant experience.
- The Pencil, which garnered a few laughs from the audience, actually demonstrates how serious Apple is about the enterprise. This input device could only be introduced with hardware like the iPad Pro to support it, as it tracks multiple input components like force, speed, and angle to accurately reflect the user’s desired actions. The fact is, whiteboards, paper, and even slate still exist in the enterprise because creativity of all sorts – from wireframes to logical architecture to roadmaps and product packaging – flows most naturally from a person’s brain through the tip of the pen; removing the speedbumps of clicks and taps and drags in all the drawing software means people can be more creative, more engaged, and more poised to layout and share their ideas using iPad Pro and Pencil than they ever have before with an iPad.
And now … the nightmares
As a security advisor, I am always concerned about data leakage, which can come in so many forms. Data is lost to poor database management, poor policies surrounding mail and apps management, and of course to malicious agents (such as bad apps and external hackers). Hot mics (as any politician can tell you) are the bane of a security person’s existence when trying to control the data, message, and information.
In the interest of keeping up with the competition, like Android’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri now comes in the form of an always-on, hands-free wakeup, called “Hey Siri.” I can only hope that there are well-built device management policies surrounding this service to lock it down, containerize it, and secure the flow of the information – or iOS9 will be a non-starter for a number of sensitive enterprise industries.
I imagine there are also a number of mobile UX designers in panic mode following the announcement of 3D Touch. Their UX designs – as they stood on September 9 – will have to radically change in order to accommodate the demands of these new platforms and input methods. There will no doubt be a number of competitors with their own “z-axis” implementation of UX in the coming year, so design won’t be relegated to “iOS9 only.” Creative designers will have to think through the impact of new elements like “peek and pop,” new navigation paradigms, and of anticipating demand for new input methods that test the boundaries of app design.
All in all, this was a much more positive set of announcements for enterprise mobility and productivity than I had expected from Apple this year. While there have been a number of strategic initiatives around partnerships with Cisco and IBM, I had expected this year’s announcements to focus much more on the consumer market – on cars, TVs, and selfies. Instead, they surprised everyone with their continued aggressive push into the enterprise, seeking to displace a number of incumbents who have stood too long in the supply chain delivering cookie-cutter, boring, and uncreative enterprise solutions because there was no alternative. But now there is.
Robert McCarthy is Tech Advisor at Mobiquity.