WWDC: Why IT staffers, and users, will like Apple's plans

New hardware, and a new Mac OS X, could make life easier for IT

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Finally, let's talk about iChat for a moment. Instant messaging has always had a minor role in the professional world. Yes, it's easier than sending an e-mail and less obtrusive than a phone call, but it's still always seemed like something for mainly personal communication. The new iChat Theatre feature changes that dramatically. Yes, sharing and being able to narrate a slideshow is cool. But being able to make presentations remotely is beyond big business. Companies have been developing separate technologies for video conferencing, remote presentations and other forms of distance collaboration for years. And here it is, completely free, using hardware built into almost every Mac and using free software. And, when used with iChat server under Leopard Server, this feature can be encrypted for secure communication.

This is most definitely a far cry from the earliest versions of iChat.

Another great new iChat feature is the less-mentioned ability to IM the contents of your screen. This ability, which has been built into Apple Remote Desktop, is great for collaboration (you can actively edit a document in Photoshop while the client is looking at it in real time) or for help desk purposes; a help desk agent can see exactly what is happening and offer advice (although Apple Remote Desktop would be a better choice here). Needless to say, there is a place for this new iChat in the professional world (and the world of personal contact and fun). And at no extra cost, that place can enable small businesses the collaborative abilities formerly not available to them.

All in all, Apple has given Mac professionals a lot to look forward to in the coming year.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and IT consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network design and troubleshooting. He is the co-author of Essential Mac OS X Panther Server Administration (O'Reilly Media, 2005) and the author of Troubleshooting, Maintaining, and Repairing Macs (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2000). He is a regular contributor to Inform IT. For more information, visit RyanFaas.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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