Apple seems to have a significant impact on the future of work without directly intending to. The iPhone has made steady inroads into the enterprise since its introduction, and the iPad is making big waves as well. These devices are especially useful for remote workers, for whom computing tech is the very lifeblood of their daily grind. Apple’s next-generation mobile operating system brings big improvements for consumers, but they’ll be no less beneficial to mobile workers.
It’s hard to understand just how much better it is to be able to see your work-related emails lined up at a glance on your lock screen as they come in, without having to even unlock your device, until you’ve tried it for yourself. Plus, you can jump to any email in the list automatically with one swipe, instead of having to unlock, open the mail application, scroll and find the right email, then tap on the email. The new iOS notifications can also do the same thing for text messages, voicemail or even with alerts from third-party apps. This makes everything you do on your phone or iPad much, much easier; a boon for busy remote workers who are inundated daily with demands for their attention.
While the value of iMessage, Apple’s new text and MMS replacement, may be reduced by being limited to a single platform (iOS only), that limitation didn’t stop BlackBerry Messenger from being a huge hit with the enterprise crowd. iMessage will even work on iPads and iPod touches, devices which don’t normally support text messaging. It’s also smart enough to detect when your recipient can receive iMessages, so iOS-based web workers will be using it whether or not they realize it.
An iPad 2, coupled with an Apple TV, can function as a mobile workstation, and a presentation tool you can use anywhere there’s a television or video output device. AirPlay mirroring of apps makes it easier to work on presentations and longer documents, especially when you pair your iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard for easier typing. Plus, developers should be able to leverage the new feature to come up with some really innovative two-screen interfaces that could significantly change the way we use mobile devices to get work done.
Documents in the cloud
As part of iOS 5 and iCloud, developers will be able to add simple cross-device syncing of document changes. This will be an incredible boon for remote workers, and especially for distributed teams, who should be able to take advantage of this in apps that let members work collaboratively on a single document. We could see solutions that allow a distributed team to work together on projects as if they were working on a corporate server, instead, using Apple’s free iCloud product, which should be handy for small companies and freelancers.
There are mobile workers who can do everything they need to get done on an iPad and an iPhone, especially with the right software support from an in-house IT development team. For those workers, the most important thing about iOS 5 is that it finally severs the essential connection between iOS devices and a home PC. A workstation with an all-day battery and an always-on connection is now within reach, especially for remote workers with relatively light computing demands.
Apple gave mobile workers a lot to be thankful for with OS X Lion, too, including auto save, resume and version tracking for documents built into the OS, but I think the changes made in iOS 5 will have the biggest impact for remote teams. Apple also made a couple changes directly aimed at enterprise customers, like encryption for iMessage and S/MIME support in iOS Mail. If you’ve been waiting for a good time to introduce Apple devices to your mobile workflow, there’s never been a better time than this fall, when iOS 5 is released.