Apple’s iOS 5 has a lot of new features. Here are four that I believe will have the most impact on IT departments.

1. iCloud

Although Apple previously made their MobileMe service available, iCloud is intended to expand the capabilities of this service and make it more useful to more people. As uptake of this services rises and an increasing number of employees bring personal devices to the workplace, organizations risk users storing work-related documents in a personal iCloud space, where these documents remain unreachable by the employer. Such a situation can create compliance issues, as well as issues during employee turnover.

Start planning now by revising any Bring Your Own Device policies you may already have in place and prohibit the storage of work-related documents in iCloud. However, even that is probably too specific; users should be using only sanctioned, approved storage areas that fall under the control of organizational policy, retention, and backup mechanisms. Your policy should clearly articulate where storage is allowed. If you intentionally add new storage opportunities, then update the policy to include those new areas.

2. Productivity enhancements

When the original iPhone was released, I panned it as completely inappropriate for the enterprise due primarily to the product’s lack of ActiveSync capability. That shortcoming was corrected, however, and the iPhone quickly became my phone of choice.

While many people use their iOS-based devices for e-mail, the mail client lacks formatting capabilities. In iOS 5, Apple is aiming to change that and make some of the built-in apps, including mail, more full-featured.

Here are some of the things we can expect to see with iOS 5:

  • New ability to format messages a bit more
  • Message flagging (I use this a lot in Outlook)
  • Calendar enhancements
  • Much improved tasks capability that synchronizes across devices with iCloud

On the surface, the productivity enhancements aren’t earth-shattering, but they do make the whole platform a bit more compelling.

3. Apple TV integration for AirPlay

In many places, iOS-based devices have permeated the employee ranks all across the organization, and the trend is not likely to change in the near future, particularly as Apple updates its product line. With iOS 5, Apple is adding AirPlay functionality, which allows iOS 5 devices to integrate with Apple TV boxes in order to display mobile-based content on connected HDTVs. I can absolutely envision tech-savvy executives who carry iPads and iPhones wanting to make significant use of this capability, especially if it works as seamlessly as most other Apple services.

I highly recommend that IT departments invest in an Apple TV or two and start testing the possibilities here as soon as possible. It could reshape the way that a lot of presentations are made.

4. Enhanced messaging via iMessage

Apple surprised carriers with the introduction of iMessage, which is an integrated messaging function that will be made available in all iOS 5 devices. iMessage bypasses a carrier’s own messaging systems and could negatively impact some of the significant charges that carriers assess for SMS service. Obviously, in some organizations, electronic communications need to be logged and retained for compliance purposes.  Regardless of ownership — whether an iOS device is owned by an employee or the organization provides the device and service — make sure organizational policies take into consideration that third-party apps can be used to bypass approved communications channels.