Despite all the energy and rumors surrounding this week's Apple announcements, the ultimate resulting facts were disappointing. The market wasn't very happy with the Worldwide Developers Conference news, certainly, with the company's stock dropping four points at 1PM (EDT) when the announcements were made. While Apple did introduce important new initiatives, many of the innovations-iTunes improvements, the introduction of a Camera button within iOS 5, etc.-just don't impact businesses using Macs. But a few items did jump out at me. Here are the four WWDC 2011 announcements that I believe will impact business users most.
Built-in App Store inside Mac OS X Lion
I've said before that the inclusion of the App Store within Mac OS X Lion is going to change the way users download, update, and maintain applications on their computers. Some readers suggested the feature wasn't important, but news emanating from Windows 8 beta tests suggest Microsoft is working to include an application store within the next version of the PC client operating system.
With the App Store integrated within Lion, business users are going to find it easier to research, purchase, obtain, update, and restore commonly used software programs. It's a subtle distinction, but one that's going to favor software developers while removing supply chain and distribution hurdles.
Notifications Center debuts in iOS 5
Everyone lives hectic lives now, bouncing from meeting to meeting and from office to office, constantly transacting business on the go. I've closed deals sitting at a stoplight using a combination of Tweets, IMs, texts, Facebook messages, and emails. Chances are you have, too.
One thing the iPhone hasn't done well is collect myriad notifications and alerts within a single console. Instead users are subjected to intermittent alerts that must be dismissed individually sometimes from within separate apps. Worse, sometimes quick-thumbed users accidentally dismiss all alerts with a single random swipe. That changes with iOS 5, which introduces the Notifications Center. Accessible at any time from any app, Notifications Center helps organize peripatetic business users' lives by collecting alerts by app and timestamping them within a single view.
iOS 5 Mail improvements
The rich-text improvements to be introduced with iOS 5's Mail app are overdue. Flagging messages, long ago widely popularized on Gmail, is an important new feature, too. But rich-text support within Mail, which enables adding bolded, underlined, and italicized text, is likely the most welcome addition for business users that must send professional, legible email messages. And indenting support should have been available from the start.
iCloud sync services
At first glance iCloud looks to be a consumer offering, a simple Web-based service for storing and updating music and photos. But iCloud also stores email, calendars, contacts, documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Oh, and 5 gigabytes of storage is free (and purchased music, apps and books don't count against the storage total). And, iCloud pushes data between iPads, iPhones, iPods, Macs, and PCs.
That's a pretty compelling combination for business users that constantly juggle the use of all these myriad devices. Since device settings, apps, app data, photos, videos, text messages, documents, spreadsheets and presentations and other data are automatically backed up to iCloud, recovering from a failed device becomes a much easier proposition for business users, too.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.