The next release of OS X promises to have features that will make it easier for small businesses to build out an infrastructure based on Apple technology. Erik Eckel explains why.
Large organizations and even many smaller SMBs frequently find it necessary to work within heterogeneous environments. File and print sharing, for example, often runs off an OS X box, email (maybe) runs off a Microsoft Exchange server and a Linux machine (potentially) powers a Web site or team collaboration portal.
Apple’s push to expand OS X capability with its Mavericks release, however, will make it possible for many SMBs to become Apple-only shops. Five OS X Mavericks features, in particular, help improve the underlying technical infrastructure and foundation upon which a small business can build Apple-technology-only operations.
Software vendors often overthink applications. Monstrously large software products result, when really a small business was only seeking to electronically balance its check book, write a document or track client correspondence. Apple’s done an outstanding job building fundamental office productivity features within its iWork (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) apps, and now the company’s iCloud Keychain seeks to integrate password storage, password generation, credit card information and similar sensitive data within its secure, connected cloud. Better yet, the technology works across multiple Apple devices, including Mac computers, iPhones and iPads. As Apple continues introducing such features, SMB dependence upon third-party tools decreases, while reliance upon Apple technologies (both software and hardware) increases.
On the surface, Maps integration within the OS might now sound like a big deal. But it is. Apple is investing heavily in an advertising campaign to position itself as a company that creates and designs. When users view a map, Apple’s driving directions, interactive 3D map manipulation, real-time traffic directions, and suggested alternative routes information proves essential to traveling business people, executives and mobile staff.
The new ability to send maps to an iPhone, which supports audible voice navigation, from the desktop is another benefit. Users, in real life, frequently attempt to map routes and become familiar with client sites and travel destinations before leaving the office. Integrating Maps within the OS makes it easier to do so. Further integration with Mail, Contacts, and Calendar helps ensure SMB users become that much more dependent upon those technologies daily, too.
Businesses live and die by calendars and email. The ability to send Maps to Calendar adds convenience and simplifies mobile users’ lives, but even more advantageous is the streamlined Calendar interface within Mavericks. Simplified scrolling makes it easy and intuitive to access future dates or return to previous appointments and view calendar dates as circumstances require, such as might come in handy when having to view the last week of the previous month and the first week of the current month.
Mavericks’ new event inspector simplifies creating and editing appointments. The inspector also calculates travel time, a common complex task within many consultancies, and even displays weather forecasts, which proves critical to SMBs dependent upon weather, such as is true in the construction, event, public relations, and landscaping industries, among others.
My consulting agency is increasingly seeing SMBs lose dependence upon more expensive audio, video and presentation providers, thanks to the simplicity of working with an Apple TV device. Numerous organizations have deployed the low-cost set top box equivalent that makes it easy to connect a Mac, iPhone or iPad to a conference or theater room display and existing sound system.
OS X Mavericks extends AirPlay functionality and enables using an HDTV as a fully functioning display. As a result, a presenter can dedicate a presentation to the large meeting room display but continue performing and operating tasks on a separate screen unseen by attendees.
Improved iOS caching
The Mac OS X Mavericks server boasts several improvements, one of which is improved iOS caching. As SMBs increasingly prove dependent upon collaboration and mobile communications, centralizing end user support, administration and communication using Mac OS X on the back end further eliminates the need for other third-party products or cloud-based services. Improving iOS caching, meanwhile, means traveling and mobile users receive better performance downloading and accessing of software and apps and the organization’s administration and management of software licensing, purchases, and distribution is further simplified.
Additional third-party apps or platforms are no longer required to administer app licensing, tracking and distribution. Instead, all those tasks can reasonably live within the OS X Mavericks sphere of influence.