We were a bit tardy in finishing this article, but we finally have our list of realistic things we’d like to see Apple do in 2010. Also this week, Rich Mogull looks at what enterprises will need to do to prepare for the iPad; Doug McLean ponders why Greenpeace keeps targeting Apple; and Glenn Fleishman covers news of a Skype client on Verizon smartphones, Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 Series operating system, and an improvement in the MobileMe Web site. Plus, we have video of three of our appearances at Macworld Expo! Notable software releases this week include Firefox 3.5.8, TweetDeck 0.33.2, VMware Fusion 3.0.2, and iStumbler 99.
It’s ironic that MobileMe couldn’t be accessed via Mobile Safari. MobileMe’s me.com Web site used to offer up an error page with a link to information on how to set up an iPhone or iPod touch for synchronization. Apple has now changed that welcome screen for its mobile devices, alerting the world via a Knowledge Base note that we found out about via Macworld.
While requiring sync for email, contacts, and calendar might be acceptable – even if I would like to have the option to use MobileMe’s Web apps on someone else’s iPhone or iPod touch – Find My iPhone/iPod touch couldn’t be used via Mobile Safari. If your iPod touch or iPhone were lost or stolen, you couldn’t use someone else’s iPhone to find yours! (Adam Engst described a workaround in “Use Find My iPhone from an iPhone,” 30 September 2009.) I wonder if an Apple executive discovered this lacuna when his or her phone was missing.
The revised Mobile Safari welcome screen for me.com is better organized. The link to setup instructions for synchronization is still there, but there are three additional buttons: Use Find My iPhone, Install Gallery App (to access your MobileMe Gallery), and Install iDisk App (for file access).
Tap the Use Find My iPhone button, and the browser presents the standard full-screen desktop login window for me.com, not one designed for Mobile Safari. It’s awkward. (See “Find Your Lost iPhone or iPod touch with iPhone OS 3.0,” 17 June 2009, for more details about that feature.)
When logged in, you see the full main interface for a moment, after which you’re redirected to the Find My iPhone/iPod touch page. That page also isn’t optimized and you have to zoom and expand to read the page’s contents or activate functions like wiping your phone remotely or locking the phone with a four-digit PIN.
Apple should still improve this process, but making Find My iPhone/iPod touch viewable via Mobile Safari is at least a step in the right direction.
Windows Mobile, Microsoft’s version of Windows for smartphones and other handhelds, is no more; “Windows Phone 7 Series” is the new and wildly inelegant moniker for what looks to be a quite different operating system from Microsoft. The name aside, Microsoft’s revised mobile operating system will emphasize being able to accomplish multiple tasks at the same time, in sharp contrast with the iPhone.
The iPhone and iPod touch currently allow only one program to run in the foreground while a variety of Apple-controlled processes perform background tasks such as sending and receiving email, accepting and displaying notifications, and playing music.
But competitors keep pushing on the notion that multiple active programs enable a smartphone to do more, while stating that quitting and launching programs is a worse experience than changing context – switching among multiple running programs. (Join in on a lively discussion on this matter in the comments on Adam Engst’s article “Does the iPhone OS Need Multitasking?,” 8 February 2010.)
Microsoft’s approach to this putative problem is to create what it’s calling hubs, each of which organizes specific kinds of tasks and applications. In one demo, the Start screen is split into square and oblong tiles that show live information from each of these hubs, such as updates from a social networking site like Facebook, or new photos from a picture site.
The demo shows a rather lovely and fluid approach to navigating among Microsoft-provided applications, which display and update data gathered from both Microsoft’s own services and third parties.
I spent a few weeks with a Zune HD last year, and was struck by how the Zune user interface had actually brought something new and attractive to the table. There were a few missteps, but using the Zune HD was fluid and intuitive; it had much in common with the flow of iPhone OS without looking or working like it in the least. It was also, thank goodness, entirely unlike the far more clunky mobile offerings by Microsoft. I liked using the Zune HD.
Windows Phone seems to bring these Zune notions to a broader, Internet-attached world. That could be great. Windows Mobile needs to be retired, and Apple, Google, Nokia, and Research in Motion could use serious competition, especially when they try relying on an installed base to avoid improving their offerings.
That said, the Windows Phone demo and surrounding details don’t show how third-party applications are integrated into the platform. Nor do we see more than skin deep. One of Windows Vista’s problems was that while it improved in many ways on Windows XP, you could scratch at the surface and XP dialog boxes – and even older cruft – were still there beneath a thin UI layer, demanding attention.
Windows Phone 7 Series won’t be turned into hardware by Microsoft, unlike its Zune, so we’ll have to see how the firms that have produced generations of Windows Mobile PDAs and phones manage this new operating system. This is much more how Microsoft normally operates, but it recalls the difference between Macs, where Apple exercises tight control over the hardware and the operating system, and Windows PCs, where overall usability is often hurt by each manufacturer making different hardware design decisions.
The long-rumored Skype client for Verizon will be available for that firm’s smartphones in March 2010. But it’s not quite the Skype we’re used to: the client will work only over 3G, not Wi-Fi – the opposite of Skype for iPhone, which currently works only over Wi-Fi. The Verizon client also won’t call regular phone numbers in the United States, instead connecting only Skype users to other Skype users. Skype has over half a billion users worldwide, and Verizon has over 90 million subscribers. The Skype client is integrated with the smartphone address book for simpler calling.
The free software does allow Skype-to-Skype calls worldwide over 3G, but Skype Out calls to the public switched telephone network may be made only to numbers outside the United States. This cuts into the atrociously high rates that Verizon and other carriers collect for international calling, but also doesn’t let you substitute data calls for consuming minutes from your domestic plan.
It’s unclear at this writing whether Skype In numbers, regular phone numbers linked to a Skype account, will be routed to a Verizon smartphone with the client.
You can also use the client to send and receive instant messages and see the Skype status of those other Skype users who allow you to see their status.
The free Skype for iPhone software currently offers only calling over Wi-Fi, but to any phone number, not just other Skype users. The iPhone app also allows SMS messages, as well as Skype messaging. Apple and AT&T agreed in 2009 to allow voice calls over 3G, and both firms updated agreements to allow this.
However, the upcoming iPhone OS 3.2 is reportedly required to enable VoIP over 3G. Skype recently explained that it plans a revised version of its iPhone app after the 3.2 update ships but only when it is satisfied with voice quality.
Increasingly, even if you can’t make it to Macworld Expo, you can see some of what you missed via online video produced by the likes of Macworld and MacVoices TV. We found ourselves in a number of productions, and, honestly, they weren’t all that different from the kinds of conversations we had with lots of people at the show. So tune in for a bit of that Macworld Expo experience without leaving your desk, but keep in mind that these videos were possible only because there was a Macworld Expo at which we could all come together in person.
- TidBITS on MacVoices TV: At the end of the first day, MacVoices TV host Chuck Joiner corralled Adam, Tonya, and Joe to talk about the most interesting products we’d seen on the show floor. And yes, it was difficult to stand still after a hard day on the floor.
- MacJury on MacVoices TV: On the second day of the show, Tonya participated in a MacJury panel discussion, along with Ted Landau, Jeff Gamet, and Chuck La Tournous, to discuss what was different and interesting about this Macworld Expo, and to predict what will be special about Macworld Expo 2011.
- Macworld 2010: TidBITS at Expo: In this video, shot on the final day of the show, Macworld’s Chris Breen interviewed Adam and Tonya about the state of electronic publishing, where Take Control came from, and what the iPad means to the publishing industry. Now we just have to convince Chris to come write Take Control books for us!
A few weeks ago, the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace released its Guide to Greener Electronics, 14th Edition, a ranking of 18 consumer electronics companies. The list rates major electronics manufacturers – Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Panasonic, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Sony, Nokia, and others – on environmental goals such as eliminating harmful chemicals in their products, offering recycling programs, and publicly committing themselves to environmentally friendly positions and goals. At first the report seemed like standard Greenpeace fare, but given some time to mull it over, I’ve begun to think it may not be serving
Greenpeace’s long-term goals well.
This year, Apple moved up four spots on the Guide to Greener Electronics to claim fifth place. The climb results from a mere 0.2 point increase on its score (up to 5.1 from 4.9), combined with the drop of a few companies like Samsung that failed to meet previously set goals. Greenpeace continues to applaud Apple for the actual removal of PVCs and BFRs from all its products (except for PVC-free power cords in some countries that haven’t yet approved them on safety grounds), though it also continues to ding Apple for a lack of public statements and commitments. (Like that’s a surprise with Apple!) Apple loses points
for failing to provide information regarding its supply chain, providing minimal information on future chemical phase-outs, and for reducing information available on its Web site.
The volatility present in the rankings largely results from Greenpeace’s emphasis on rewarding statements, promises, and public positions – as opposed to concentrating on what a company has actually done. This isn’t a new critique of Greenpeace’s methodology; Steve Jobs himself said much the same thing at a 2007 shareholder meeting (see “Steve Jobs Addresses Greenpeace at Shareholder Meeting”, 14 May 2007).
However, a new rankings chart – appearing under the header “Which companies really sell greener electronics” – introduced this year gives new reason to question why Greenpeace ranks companies in the manner it does. In this new list, Apple prominently takes the top spot, earning four gold stars (the maximum) for having eliminated hazardous chemicals in all of its products. Despite winning the blue ribbon on this page, Greenpeace makes it clear elsewhere that Apple is really in the middle of the pack overall.
So why, if eliminating harmful chemicals from manufacturing is only one part of the equation, does only this particular aspect of being green merit its own chart? If Greenpeace is interested in breaking things down a bit, showing which companies do well in specific areas, why isn’t there another gold star chart evaluating how energy-efficient a company’s products are, or how much renewable energy the company itself uses? It’s telling, I think, that Greenpeace has created a ranking that puts the spotlight on Apple, of all the companies in the list.
Perhaps Greenpeace is merely trying to appease Apple press and fans. Greenpeace has taken legitimate heat for not giving Apple’s actual elimination of toxic chemicals enough credit, so maybe this chart is a way of recognizing that achievement. But if that were true, it would seem Greenpeace would be conceding its major point that changing manufacturing processes is only part of the overall picture.
Another reason might be even less attractive, related as it is to how one best markets a cause. Apple succeeds in large part due to its public image – the mere mention of Apple can evoke the surrounding culture (youthful, edgy creative types), the people that embody the brand (Steve Jobs or Justin Long), and the products themselves (the iPhone and iPad). The same can’t be said of any of the other companies on Greenpeace’s list. Just consider the recent fervor regarding the anticipated release of the iPad – you don’t see that with nearly any other company in the world.
So what better company for Greenpeace to attach its message to? By scolding Apple, as it has done in the past, Greenpeace garnered attention for both its goals and itself as an organization. But slamming Apple can generate press effectively for only so long before everyone tunes out. But by placing Apple atop a list, complete with shiny gold stars, Greenpeace was once again able to attract some attention from the press and public. And this time, in addition to grabbing the spotlight briefly, Greenpeace can also claim that its past actions resulted in this new and improved Apple (not that that’s at all likely to be true). In this light, the latest
ranking says less about Apple’s environmental citizenship than about Greenpeace’s maneuvering and manipulation of the media.
Having said all that, it’s not as if Greenpeace’s goal is a bad one. We all place helping ensure the future of a human-friendly Earth on the list of good causes. But might that cause be better served by rankings based on verifiable actions instead of public puffery and easily changed policies?
Beneath Greenpeace’s easy-to-read rankings is – presumably – a lot of research that attempts to determine the impact electronics companies have on the environment and on policy decisions. In the age of the sound bite it’s understandable that Greenpeace feels a need to dress this information up to attract readers who will hopefully continue on to read the finer details. I’m not unsympathetic to Greenpeace’s need for attention, but I fear the slippery manner in which it has been doing that may damage its long term goals. If Greenpeace’s public relations techniques impinge upon its perceived integrity or reliability as a source on green electronics, then the ends won’t even have the opportunity to justify the means.
A fierce independence and commitment to envisioning the future has earned Apple its current celebrity. Greenpeace should take note, and allow its own hard work to become the sole spokesman for its cause.
Now that Apple has announced the iPad (much to our collective relief after months of rumors and hype), we have the brain space to look forward to what else Apple might do in 2010.
It’s a good bet that we’ll see speed bumps to much of the Mac line, though it seems less likely that 2010 will bring major industrial design changes. iPhone OS 3.2 is a sure thing, and version 4.0 also seems likely, as does a mid-year update to the iPhone and iPod touch hardware. iLife will probably receive a revision as well, though just when during the year that will happen is anyone’s guess. It’s also easy to predict small updates to Mac OS X, and if we’re lucky, the mid-year Worldwide Developers Conference will bring a glimpse of features in the next big cat, itself probably not due until 2011.
That was all blindingly obvious, wasn’t it? Most industry predictions are, since they’re based largely on past performance. So instead of attempting to predict what we expect Apple to do, we instead want to share a few suggestions of what we’d like to see Apple do this year. And unlike some wishlists, we’re doing our best to keep it real – all of these ideas are entirely within Apple’s capabilities and, we believe, within the realm of Apple’s business direction.
(We have plenty of wishes – from a revamping of Apple’s App Store policies to the open sourcing of the Cocoa framework – that stray too far into the realm of fantasy to explore further here.)
Better Home Media Sharing — Computing and communications devices have long been moving from being shared to being personal. We have our own Macs, our own iPhones, and our own iPods. And Apple certainly wants to encourage that, since it’s easier to sell multiple products to a loyal customer than to acquire a new one.
But where Apple has fallen down badly is in acknowledging that certain types of data are shared property, all while paying loud lip service to the concepts of networking and data sharing. From iCal and Address Book to iTunes and iPhoto, sharing data within a family is cumbersome at best, and often read-only. BusyMac’s BusySync solves the problem for iCal, and Address Book offers some sharing capabilities for MobileMe users in Snow Leopard, but iTunes and iPhoto remain troublesome, even with the addition of the rather confusing Home Sharing feature in iTunes.
The fact of the matter is that music and photos are absolutely shared property within a household. Nothing – legal or physical – prevents any one of us from playing any of the CDs we’ve purchased, and nothing prevents any of us from looking at or working with our physical photo albums from the days before digital photography. So why do we have to jump through hoops to do this with our digitized music and photos? Is Apple just kowtowing to the recording industry, and if so, why should that affect iPhoto?
In our ideal 2010, updates to iTunes and iPhoto would give them an interface for creating a centralized data store with the option either to share user-created collections like playlists, ratings, albums, books, cards, and so on, or to keep them separate. Either way, any user should be able to add information to the centralized data store in any way and have it become available to all users.
But we’ll go a step further and suggest that Apple could turn this crying need into a profit center as well, by releasing a Media Capsule, a combination of the Apple TV and Time Capsule that would combine Wi-Fi and Ethernet routing, network-attached storage, networked backups, and shared media libraries, with the capability of displaying photos and video on a TV set and playing music through a stereo system. Such a device could include a terabyte of storage for less than $400 given Apple’s current Time Capsule and Apple TV pricing.
Another move Apple could make in this direction would be to allow iTunes Store accounts to be collected together into a “family account,” much as you can have a master MobileMe account and various sub-accounts. That could potentially eliminate legal concerns surrounding sharing, since users would be agreeing that sharing was purely for personal use.
Family Support in MobileMe — Continuing the theme, although MobileMe offers a family plan, it’s merely an individual account plus four additional family accounts (with reduced storage) at a lower price. MobileMe has improved significantly over the past few years, and Apple is missing a great opportunity to meet the needs of the online-enabled family.
Family coordination has always been a daunting task, and never more so than in this digital age. There are schedules to keep in sync, photos to share, geographically separated grandparents to update, and bodies to track. MobileMe already includes all the core components of a service that would significantly appeal to families.
Calendar sharing is probably the most important element, and is nearly non-existent today. With MobileMe you can currently publish a calendar so others can see it, but you can’t share a calendar and allow anyone to change it. There are also no group calendars to allow family members to share common appointments.
Adding calendar sharing and a family group calendar (showing everyone’s individual appointments, plus shared ones) would be a huge help in coordinating everyone’s doctor appointments and after-school activities. Apple could even add to-do items, so chores could be assigned and marked as done electronically.
Unlike the current calendar publishing, Apple should also make shared calendars secure and accessible only to invited members, and continue to allow people to mark their own events as private, since we all need a little break from the family sometimes.
Aside from calendars, there are a number of other family-friendly features Apple could add to MobileMe with various degrees of effort. A family mailing list might make a nice replacement for notes stuck on refrigerators or stuffed in lunchboxes. Enhancements to Find My iPhone could allow parents to keep track of a distributed family (and help sell a few more iPhones); cell carriers already offer similar family-tracking services for less interesting phones. Shared contacts could make those holiday cards or birthday party invites a little easier to pull off. Apple could even centralize Parental Controls management for all iPhones and Macs registered with the family plan. A wiki-like service could allow an extended family to share holiday
wishlists without worrying about duplication.
And, finally, our previous suggestion about opening up media sharing fits this model nicely, especially for maintaining photo galleries shared with an extended family via MobileMe.
MobileMe for Mobile Devices — While we’re on the subject of MobileMe, the lack of support for MobileMe in the mobile version of Safari that’s part of the iPhone OS is bewildering. Visit me.com from Mobile Safari, and you’re given just a few options: Set up Mail, Contacts, Calendar (which leads to a single screen with instructions on how to set up syncing using the built-in apps on the iPhone or iPod touch); Use Find My iPhone (a recent addition – finally! – as described in “MobileMe Site Adds Some Mobile Safari Support,” 18 February 2010); or given the options to install the MobileMe
Gallery app for viewing MobileMe galleries and the iDisk app for file access.
Google and many other firms have built highly usable Web front ends to sites that were originally intended for desktop browsers, and Apple also has some quite marvelous Web apps. Why not let people who so choose access email, calendars, and other advanced MobileMe features from within Mobile Safari instead of via sync?
You may need access when you’re trying to reach MobileMe data from a friend’s or colleague’s iPhone or iPod touch, or when you have an account that you want to check, but not sync. This is especially the case for business users who sync with work information, but still need access to their personal data from the Web site. And while Apple finally allowed access to Find My iPhone from an iPhone (after we initially drafted this article, in fact), the current approach is still just a bandage, not real support.
Bluetooth Keyboard Support for iPhone/iPod touch — You knew we’d make our way around to the iPhone eventually, didn’t you? No one would suggest that an iPhone or iPod touch is an ideal device on which to write long documents, and we’ve all gotten used to the “glass keyboard” that appears for data entry in the iPhone OS.
But despite Steve Jobs’s disdain for hardware keyboards, such as those found on major models from every other smartphone maker, Apple took pains during the iPad introduction to feature the iPad Keyboard Dock, and the iPad’s support for Bluetooth-connected keyboards.
We asked Apple employees at the iPad’s introduction if that same Bluetooth keyboard support would appear in updates to the iPhone and iPod touch, but were told it wasn’t planned for those devices. Why? Is it purely to differentiate the iPad from the iPhone and iPod touch?
(To be fair, the iPhone OS 3.2 update, which is the version demonstrated on the iPad, hasn’t yet shipped, so it’s entirely possible that Apple may simply include Bluetooth keyboard support for all iPhone OS devices when the software appears.)
A highly technical Australian friend recently managed a four-week, multiple-continent business trip with only an iPhone for email with the office, Web access for looking up information, Skype for calling home, and taking photos of his travels. Though he intentionally left his laptop behind, he said a compact Bluetooth keyboard would likely have eased the more text-intensive tasks, allowed improved ergonomics, and prevented some neck and shoulder pain from excessive iPhone use. The new restrictions and screening changes for commercial air travel might make it even more desirable to avoid carrying a laptop when possible.
There is no good technical reason that Apple hasn’t enabled this support, which uses very little battery power compared to Bluetooth calling and Bluetooth stereo audio. It seems like a control-freak decision, not one rooted in technical causes or in the cause of providing the best experience for users. A simple upgrade would flip a switch and turn this feature on.
Will these changes happen? That’s the big question. We’ve tried hard to keep our wishes in the realm of things that fit within Apple’s overall direction and mindset, and that Apple has the technical chops to accomplish. But do our desires align with Apple’s corporate direction?
Certainly, customer feedback never hurts, and we encourage you to use Apple’s Feedback page to register your opinions as well. But the company is famously self-directed, and the main driving force for such changes would have to come from within, if not from Steve Jobs himself, then from Apple’s own product managers, programmers, testers, and tech support reps, all communicating up the line that they themselves want more from Apple’s products along the lines we’ve outlined here.
The initial response from many industry analysts on the release of the iPad was unsurprising, if disappointing. As expected, they cited a litany of reasons Apple’s latest creation is completely unsuitable in the enterprise, firmly branding the iPad as nothing more than a consumer toy. The usual complaints were trotted out: security concerns, manageability, and lack of support for existing enterprise applications. These criticisms rolled off their keyboards and tongues as if from a well-rehearsed script.
They are wrong.
The iPad is a fundamentally transformative computing experience that will meet the needs of many business users far more effectively than their existing Macs or PCs do. Although initial business adoption will start slowly due to some of Apple’s design choices, adoption will pick up over time, and businesses will find themselves increasing both support and use of iPads to meet employee demand and business needs.
While I don’t expect the iPad to displace the inventory of enterprise laptops and desktops completely, it (and its eventual derivatives) are well designed to fulfill certain business needs underserved by existing solutions.
Filling a Technology Gap — Although businesses often need some sort of a mid-size device for their users, the offerings have never really suited the requirements. Existing tablets either bolt a tablet interface onto a desktop operating system, or expand a PDA-based user interface onto a larger display. Tablets that use desktop operating systems still suffer from the battery life and usability problems of their desktop brethren, while the PDA-based devices start instantly, work longer, and cost less, but with severely limited displays and application performance. And neither of these options is designed for the form factor and usage scenarios they inhabit.
Many organizations, especially larger ones, struggle to strike the right balance for mobile computing. Certain types of users, such as healthcare, service engineers, and other on-the-go job roles have long sought a portable device to support their work in the field. Having used, supported, and even designed some of these throughout my IT career I can honestly say the vast majority are poorly suited for field work. They are clumsy, non-intuitive, and often both slow and unreliable.
There are also many business users who travel regularly, but who don’t need the full desktop computing experience when they are out of the office. I rack up 50,000 to 100,000 air miles each year, but on most of my trips I need access only to email, the Web, my calendar, and a few productivity applications (the Microsoft Office suite). It’s also nice to have some video entertainment options and a game or two to while away late nights in the hotel. Don’t believe me? Next time you are on a plane, in an airport, at a hotel, or in a conference, take a quick look at the screens around you – it’s likely that 95 percent of what you see are email, movies or games, a spreadsheet, a PowerPoint presentation, Microsoft Word document, a Web browser,
or perhaps a PDF file.
But we road warriors have never really had a viable option other than a full-sized laptop. Even with all the advances in mobile computing design, we either have a full desktop user interface on a netbook’s tiny screen and cramped keyboard, or a larger, heavier device you can’t open and use comfortably (or safely, for the device) in the cramped seats of major airlines (in the United States at least). And neither laptops nor netbooks can get you through a full day unless you’re on one of the few airlines with power outlets in economy class.
While it’s always risky to speculate before a device is actually released, the iPad seems well positioned to meet needs of both the field user and the business traveler – at least eventually. Its size, simplicity, flexible user interface, and likely reliability are an excellent match for vertical and field applications, while its weight, battery life, and application support are well aligned for a certain class of business traveler. It’s the first tablet that’s designed as a tablet.
But notice I said, “eventually.” As is often the case with Apple, the iPad needs a few tweaks before we’ll see it formally supported in wide business use.
The Apple Adoption Cycle — Apple has always had a tepid relationship with the enterprise. Apple is first and foremost a consumer electronics company, and, unlike Microsoft or major PC manufacturers like Dell, has deliberately avoided many of the requirements to sell into the enterprise. Rather than dealing with the sales and support overhead, Apple adds just enough features to their products so they’ll work in an enterprise, rather than building out enterprise-specific solutions.
Instead of aiming for the corporate procurement office’s specifications, Apple focuses most features on the needs of everyday users, while understanding that certain enterprise-class features, like Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory support, are essential for consumers to be able to use their devices at work. Apple’s enterprise strategy is to reduce barriers to entry and then appeal directly to the users, avoiding the tremendous overhead of selling directly to a budget-constrained IT department.
Thus, nearly every Apple technology follows a typical adoption cycle that starts with high-end consumers, then business travelers and specific vertical markets (education, creative professionals), and finally expanded verticals (healthcare, financial services). Initially IT departments ban or fight the adoption of Apple’s technologies before testing pilot support and eventually offering broad support.
Requests to support the iPad in the enterprise are inevitable, from both individual users and business units with particular needs. It’s also inevitable that users will bring iPads to work even if they aren’t supported. Although it isn’t my place to tell you whether or not to support the iPad, it’s important to understand that if you work in IT you will see these requests, and you should have a plan in place to handle them, especially once your CEO plays with one at the next executive conference.
As with the iPhone, the pressure will start slowly and increase over time. Since the iPad is a new product category, and not tied to the normal 18 to 24 month cell phone refresh cycle, adoption will start slowly over the first year or so, eventually ramping up with the second and third revisions of the iPad platform. The timing might be different, and could possibly be slower, but it will eventually follow the same cycle as other Apple technologies. It’s a matter of when and how loudly, not if, users will start asking for iPad support.
Security and Management — Assuming the iPad includes the same base feature set as the iPhone (and that is an assumption, since Apple hasn’t yet released full details), security issues will be similar. The iPhone OS is relatively secure, and far more secure than any desktop operating system. It supports strong passwords, code signing, VPNs, remote wipe, basic encryption, and wipe on passcode failures. Despite all the theoretical attacks out there, the iPad is likely more secure out of the box than any existing laptops.
The more difficult problem is that the iPhone does not support security and management software. Although there aren’t any iPhone viruses, corporate compliance requirements may still mandate additional security controls like antivirus, real device encryption (it’s trivial to circumvent iPhone encryption), and user monitoring. This isn’t often an issue on the iPhone, since, for better or worse, compliance policies don’t treat phones the same as laptops. But the iPad is a new device class and may be subject to more stringent requirements. It’s an open question, and one that your IT, security, compliance, and risk departments will need to work out… possibly in cooperation with your auditors.
You may be able to mitigate some of these concerns by managing support for the iPad; specifically by allowing access only to certain applications and services. For example, you could support connections to Microsoft Exchange (where all email messages can still be scanned for viruses), and limited corporate Web applications. (Again, this assumes that the iPad has the same Exchange support as the iPhone, which may not prove to be true.)
Until some new attack appears, the biggest security risk is that of a lost device. Unless you purchase and enable 3G connectivity on all iPads, remote wiping will be far less reliable than with an iPhone. Although the iPad is likely encrypted using hardware, if it uses the same technique as the iPhone 3GS, it will be extremely vulnerable to even a moderately skilled attacker with physical access to the device. Hopefully Apple has plugged this hole, but if not, the iPad will represent a slightly higher level of risk than an unencrypted smartphone. We’ll need to evaluate this vulnerability closely when the iPad is released.
In terms of management, you don’t have many options, just as with the iPhone. Apple supports over-the-air or tethered (via iTunes) deployment of configuration profiles for security and other settings, including application restrictions, and we can expect to see these on the iPad. The biggest issue is the requirement for iTunes for all system updates, although Apple does support restricted iTunes deployments so users can’t use it as media management software.
As the iPad increases in popularity we may see additional management tools appear that support iPad management with other enterprise endpoints, especially those that currently offer iPhone support. Most of these tools leverage the same configuration profiles that Apple supports, but until Apple allows alternative update mechanisms, we’re still beholden to iTunes, an awkwardly repurposed consumer media management tool.
Application Support — One of the biggest obstacles to deploying any Apple device in the enterprise is application support. Even if we ignore custom desktop applications, there is still a massive base of Web-based corporate applications that requires Internet Explorer with ActiveX controls enabled. Worse yet, many of these applications require Internet Explorer 6, making migration even to current versions of Microsoft products difficult.
In practice, this shouldn’t hinder potential iPad deployments since we are not trying to replace employee PCs, but instead want to add an additional device option. I highly doubt we’ll see any organization rip out the sales team’s laptops in exchange for iPads any time soon.
Unless you plan on banning iPads, those of you in IT might want to start testing to see which major applications work before your users start trying them out themselves. Even if you don’t plan to offer formal support, publishing a list of usable applications will reduce support calls. The key is to manage expectations; because the iPad lacks Flash, Java, and ActiveX support, it simply won’t be able to access many enterprise applications initially, no matter how much you might want to support it.
The other big issue is productivity applications, where Apple has an answer now: iWork. Based on the information on the iPad Web site, iWork will be able to read Microsoft Office file formats, but output only PDF or iWork files, which is clearly unacceptable for many business users.
Apple also hasn’t released many details on file management, which may require an iTunes-enabled Mac or PC to place iWork files on the iPad (and possibly to manage file conversions). I use iWork heavily in my company (the advantage of being the CEO), and although it does a reasonable job of working with basic Office files, it’s still fairly limited in complex situations. This could be a deal breaker, for example, for the sales executive who needs to manage expenses in an Excel spreadsheet with macros enabled.
Broadening the Application Horizon — So far we’ve discussed only translating the existing enterprise application ecosystem to the iPad, which ignores the potential for completely new applications written for the device.
Years ago, when designing an electronic medical records application to enable doctors to collect patient data more easily during exams, my biggest struggle was creating a user interface to fit the physician’s workflow. Existing touchscreen computers and laptops were poorly suited for the task, and all competing applications were clumsy and non-intuitive. Around the same time I faced the same form/function issues while working with a major hardware vendor to design a mobile application to support field service engineers at client sites. In both cases the iPad would easily have bested existing options, thanks to its physical form factor, battery life, multitouch support, and user interface.
As apps like SalesForce Mobile and Cisco WebEx Meeting Center show, the iPhone OS platform is capable of supporting major enterprise applications. Some sacrifice feature completeness to improve usability based on the deployment circumstances. In others, especially some of the medical examples we’ve seen during Apple’s announcement events, the multitouch user interface enables application interactions previously difficult or impossible on a full workstation operating system.
The best enterprise iPad apps won’t merely translate the Web or desktop client user interface to a slightly smaller screen but will take full advantage of the new user modalities and the device’s portability to increase employee productivity. Key opportunities include customer relations management, sales and service support, expenses and billings, and vertical applications like my foray into healthcare applications.
- Ban the iPad. Offer no support, and do not allow access to the corporate VPN, wireless, or email servers. If necessary, block the iPad from connecting to corporate workstations via USB using a port control solution.
- No support, but no ban. Allow users to connect their iPads to corporate workstations to synchronize contacts and calendar entries, but don’t offer direct Exchange support, assuming the iPad supports it at all. Allow connections to a wireless guest network, but only if the user figures it out.
- Pilot or limited support. Allow advanced users to enroll in a pilot program, and use them as your test group. Enable Exchange support, VPN connectivity, and wireless access as possible. Depending on your environment you can require full device management using the iPhone Configuration Utility (assuming it’s updated for the iPad), or allow users to self-manage devices. Require iTunes on their day-to-day computer, and send out reminders to keep them updated with the latest security patches.
- Full support/adoption. Allow any user to bring an iPad into work and connect with enterprise systems. Formally support device registration and management. Write corporate iPhone apps for use on employee iPads and iPhones.
The one thing you can’t do is underestimate the iPad’s appeal and assume users won’t start bringing them to work. It’s also key that you not treat the iPad like a small Mac or a large iPhone – it’s a new class of device that shares characteristics of its bigger and smaller family members, but one with a unique (for now) set of design elements and use cases.
information regarding the update’s security content is available on Mozilla’s Web site. (Free, 19 MB)
Read/post comments about Firefox 3.5.8.
TweetDeck 0.33.2 — The 0.33.2 release of Iain Dodsworth’s Adobe AIR-based Twitter client, TweetDeck, comes on the heels of a more substantial update. Changes first introduced in version 0.33 include an increased API call limit, a new Column Navigator, and support for media previews within TweetDeck of content from YouTube, Posterous, Flickr, Mobypicture and Twitgoo. The update also enables you to make changes to your search columns (rather than having to delete and recreate them), adds a new Help section that improves support and troubleshooting features, and addresses a long list
of minor issues. Versions 0.33.1 and 0.33.2 each fix a few small bugs. (Free, 2 MB)
Read/post comments about TweetDeck 0.33.2.
VMware Fusion 3.0.2 — VMware has released a small, but important, maintenance update to the company’s virtualization software for the Mac, VMware Fusion. Version 3.0.2 corrects a compatibility issue that prevented VMware Fusion from running on servers running Mac OS X 10.6 Server. ($79.99 new, free update from 3.0, 407 MB)
Read/post comments about VMware Fusion 3.0.2.
iStumbler 99 — iStumbler is an easy way to scan for information about the Wi-Fi environment around you, as well as see available Bluetooth devices, and which Bonjour services are available on the local network. The latest version, release 99, works only with Mac OS X 10.6.2 or later, adds support for the 5 GHz band used by 802.11a and 802.11n, and takes advantage of the coordinate-based location feature in Snow Leopard to allow GPS-like tracking as the application scans. (Free, donation requested, 1.1 MB)
Read/post comments about iStumbler 99.
After hours on our feet at Macworld Expo 2010, we let our fingers do a lot of walking last week, reading articles about free registration for Macworld Expo 2011, Apple secrecy, dealing with newbies, streaming TV from HBO, an extension to a MacBook repair program, Nuance’s acquisition of MacSpeech, the EFF’s guide to ebook readers’ rights, the approval of the SlingPlayer iPhone app, a forthcoming Steve Jobs biography, and Google’s admission of inadequate testing of Google Buzz.
Free Registration for Macworld Expo 2011 — If you found Macworld Expo useful this year, or if you’re regretting having missed it, you can register for a free pass for next year’s show (January 25th through 29th, 2011). The offer is good until 8 March 2010.
Reuters Explores Apple’s Secrecy in Manufacturing — We’re all aware of how Apple refrains from talking about unannounced products, but this Reuters article gives a sense of just how far Apple also goes to maintain secrecy with manufacturing suppliers like Foxconn. The picture it paints of Apple’s approach is simultaneously entirely understandable and a little chilling.
HBO Launches GO Service — Joining networks like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX, HBO has dipped its toes into the waters of Web television with its new GO service – sort of. While the other aforementioned networks enable anyone with a computer hooked up to the Internet to access content, HBO’s GO will be available only to customers currently signed up for its regular cable service. For those folks, Web access to over 600 hours of premium shows and movies is free; for everyone else, there isn’t even an option to pay a fee – at least not yet. It will be interesting to watch how HBO develops this service and its audience in the coming year.
Apple Extends MacBook Repair Program — Apple has recently announced an extension on its repair program for certain MacBook models produced between May 2006 and December 2007. Qualifying machines display a flashing question mark on the screen when turned on and are eligible for a free hard drive replacement. Customers with symptomatic MacBooks should bring them to an Apple Authorized Service Provider or an Apple Store within 3 years from their original date of purchase or until August 15, 2010 (whichever is longer). Apple also said it will reimburse users who paid out-of-pocket to fix this now-covered issue.
Toward a Grand Unified Theory of n00bs — Computer veterans often joke about “newbie” users who have trouble understanding basic computing concepts, but it’s not funny when you’re attempting to help a friend understand something online or if you’re dealing with customer support questions. ShoveBox developer Dan Grover writes about the divide between how computers work and the expectations of those who use them, with suggestions for how to improve the experience.
EFF Offers Guide to Readers’ Rights with Ebooks — The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published what it calls a checklist of digital rights for ebooks, designed to provoke thought and discussion about what rights readers should have when purchasing electronic books.
MacSpeech Acquired by Nuance — MacSpeech has been acquired by Nuance, the firm from which MacSpeech licensed the voice-recognition engine that powers MacSpeech Dictate. MacSpeech had built its own interface and processing wrapper around the engine, which was somewhat different and not yet as full featured as Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Nuance also offers a set of iPhone apps.
Apple Approves SlingPlayer with 3G Support — The expected update to SlingPlayer that allows 3G video streaming has appeared on the App Store. SlingPlayer is an iPhone OS app that lets you stream media over a network or the Internet from a Slingbox digital video recorder. The new version allows you to view video while connected via 3G or Wi-Fi, and is the first app to permit 3G video streaming under new guidelines from AT&T.
Google Admits to Inadequate Buzz Testing — Google tested Google Buzz only internally, the product manager told the BBC, which is obvious, because only engineers working 80-hour weeks would think that people wouldn’t mind having all of their most common email and chat contacts exposed for the world to see.
A Jobs Biography with His Cooperation — Steve Jobs will cooperate with best-selling biographer Walter Isaacson on his biography, the New York Times reports. While the article relies on anonymous sources, it’s obvious Jobs would be happy to be in the company of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, the subjects of former Time manager editor Isaacson’s previous biographies.