Macs, iPads, and iPhones are an integral part in the product strategy for Huddle, a collaboration platform startup that's out to challenge Microsoft SharePoint. I recently had a chance to speak with Alastair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle, about the uptake of Apple technologies in the enterprise and influence over Huddle's strategy. I've also been spending some time testing out Huddle for Mac using a review environment the company has provided me on one of their servers.
"The use of Apple technology in the enterprise is something we see growing rapidly," says Mitchell. He believes this growth is driven by three things:
- A growing acceptance of the technologies that are enterprise-ready.
- The biggest driver is Apple technologies in the mobile sphere — specifically, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) smartphones and tablets. "Apple is introducing people to new technologies, and they are bringing them into the enterprise," adds Mitchell. "People are saying while I have that, why don't I just change my laptop to the Mac?"
- Apple crusaders within the enterprise. Typically, this was limited to the creative team and perhaps the marketing team," says Mitchell. "But now, increasingly it's IT leaders as the cloud becomes the defacto way of doing work. You are finding there are CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs who are big Mac fans. I call them the next generation of leaders, and they are saying ‘I'm going to use my Mac at work and deal with it, IT. I am also going to use my iPad, deal with it, IT.'"
According to Mitchell, "Their teams are then saying I want a Mac as well, and it feeds down from there. This was limited to small businesses. But I go into meetings with senior leaders in organizations, and they'll just bring an iPad Mini to the meeting, or they'll be sitting there on a Mac — and then you'll look around and see their management team is using these different sorts of technologies."
"I think it's a combination of those three things," Mitchell continues, "as compared to five years ago when we started. Organizations used to have Microsoft for the whole business and Macs for the creative team."
Huddle for Mac
"As a result, we started developing for Macintosh and iOS, alongside the Microsoft operating system," states Mitchell. Huddle for Mac and Huddle for Windows work the same way. "We treat them with equal importance. In some respects, we treat the Apple operating system higher because we develop for mobile first."
Huddle for Mac is a fully integrated cloud-to-desktop tool. "The cloud is basically out there. It's an ethereal concept," states Mitchell. As such, Huddle for Mac integrates your Mac with the cloud. You are mapping to the cloud, not a shared drive on the corporate network.
Users can download Huddle for Mac from the Huddle web site. After installation, the app will appear on the Mac menu bar. I've been testing it with Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac and find the synchronization to be quick and responsive. Figure A shows an example of Huddle for Mac.
Huddle for Mac.
When you open a file in Huddle for Mac, you have the option to open it in Edit and Lock or Open Read Only mode. Taking an app-based approach to accessing documents in Huddle is in contrast to the Share sub-menu in Office for Mac applications, enabling you to save directly to SharePoint. Having been a site administrator for collaboration platforms, I can't say which method is easiest. I've often seen desktop application-to-cloud sharing glossed over and never hit its potential in workgroups. Because Huddle for Mac and Huddle for Windows work the same way, an enterprise could find an advantage here because training and support doesn't have to be platform-specific.
It's been my experience that saving documents to collaboration platforms from an application is often overlooked at the end-user level. Coincidentally, users will probably need a quick introduction to Huddle for Mac to make the best use of this application.
Future of Huddle for Mac
Huddle for Mac is still in its initial release. I'm looking to future releases for the app to take off. Mitchell says Huddle is making their desktop installer the repository for some of their most sophisticated software to meet the trend of web sites becoming more like a cross between web and mobile apps, with full computing functionality that even works offline.
Mitchell points to new features coming to Huddle for Mac, including a Recent Files sub-menu that logs you into Huddle, opens up the selected file, and downloads it to your Mac desktop. There's also an upcoming Recommended Files feature that will figure out what other files in Huddle might be important to you based on your usage history. Huddle has a patent pending on this technology. Lastly, Huddle is planning offline content support so that Huddle files will be available offline across Mac and iOS devices.
As Apple products gain a foothold in more organizations, I expect that we'll see more cloud and enterprise software developers elevating Apple product support on their list of priorities.
Is support for Apple technologies playing a part in your enterprise strategy in 2014? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.