Apple made quite a splash in 2012 with a new iPhone, MacBooks with Retina displays, redesigned iMacs, a refreshed iPad and even a new iPad Mini model. Nevertheless, businesses still have a wish list for new products and features that they would like to see from Apple in the coming year.
Microsoft Office for iOS
Here's the holiday wish item most likely to come true first in 2013; Microsoft will swallow its pride and release Microsoft Office for iOS. Look for the suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) to become the best-selling paid iOS app within a quarter or two of release. iPad and iPhone users will embrace the opportunity to finally leverage the industry standard productivity suite on their mobile devices. Ease of use, reliability and compatibility will drive the suite's fast adoption.
Refreshed Mac Pros
Businesses are curious to gauge Apple's desktop computing investments. Mobile devices are where all the attention is centered, yet new iMacs boast sleek new designs. The Mac Pro, long the flagship of Mac desktop performance, received only minor updates in 2012 and possesses a Don't Buy rating from MacRumors.com. The model needs a zesty injection of innovation. The box still boasts considerable performance capacity (12 cores power the standard configuration), but an additional dose of stylistic evolution wouldn't hurt, especially as the once-flagship system is showing age. Any base $2,500 Apple desktop should at least include a half dozen USB 3.0 ports and a pair of Thunderbolt connections.
Wish lists needn't be grounded in reality, hence the request for Apple-engineered and -branded docking stations to simplify connectivity for MacBook Pro and MacBook Air users. Businesses that deploy MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs as desktop replacements, however, find themselves frustrated trying to connect multiple monitors, and a slew of cables (power, Ethernet, display, keyboard, mouse, external USB accessories, speakers, etc.) that must be disconnected and reconnected every time a user leaves or returns to his or her desk. Native port replicators could eliminate these issues altogether.
There must be a happy medium between the low cost 20- to 22-inch widescreen displays most of the world uses and the advanced $999 Apple Thunderbolt Displays only the most demanding business users can justify purchasing. If there is, Apple hasn't found it. The Thunderbolt Display is an engineering achievement (the 27" 16:9 displays have Gigabit Ethernet and Thunderbolt connectivity, 2560 x 1440 resolution, 16.7million colors, and 12ms response times)and could technically serve as a docking station — but, the cost is beyond the reach of many organizations that really only need a reliable color-reproducing 22" display for approximately a third of the expense.
As Mac sales continue to exponentially outpace PC shipments, OS X will continue growing as a malware target. As virus and spyware authors increasingly take aim at Apple's UNIX OS, integrating malware protection would help protect businesses and business users from malicious software. If Microsoft can package Security Essentials with Windows 8, there's no reason Apple developers can't add to Mountain Lion's security and sandboxing elements and include at least a basic antimalware application to help protect less educated users.
What would you add to this wish list?
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.