WWDC 2016: Apple’s 8 key enterprise stories

Jonny Evans

WWDC 2016 wasn't all about emojis’s, buried among the consumer-facing tech, Apple and partners had valuable news for enterprise professionals. I'm at the event this week and here is what you may need to consider.

The trend is that step by incremental step Apple is building foundations that should enable IT professionals to build complementary enterprise productivity innovations for all its platforms, from the Mac to the Watch, smartphones, tablets and Apple TV. I can only offer a brief overview here, but I suggest taking a closer look at the following announcements from the event.

Swift and Swift Playground

As I predicted, since Apple decided to make it open-source, Swift is rapidly coming of age. IBM VP of enterprise mobile, Phil Buckellew calls it a, “game changer for enterprises.”

IBM has built over 100 enterprise apps using Swift, with the company offering key tools to enable such use. IBM Cloud Tools for Swift, for example. “Swift is well on its way to becoming a first-class language for enterprise use,” he wrote.

That's certainly the feedback among developers at WWDC, and Swift use among Apple Design Awards 2016 winners provide evidence of this. Swift Developer may be an introduction to coding for some, but it writes real Swift apps and could see some adoption for ad hoc development tasks far beyond its stated educational purpose. Swift is seeing rapid adoption and has huge potential for cross-platform development tasks.

Apple File System

Not discussed at the event but raising a lot of attention since being disclosed to developers at WWDC, Apple File System can be described as a common file system that works across all its platforms (Mac, iOS, TV, Watch). A more in-depth technical account here.

Apple is kind of reticent on what we should expect as a result of this move, muttering only that the move should set the scene for better (and far more secure) future products.

What might this mean for enterprise users? Well, I predict incredibly well protected assets and the capacity to scale/use those assets across all and every Apple platform as and when doing so makes sense. In combination with iCloud style enhancements such as Universal Clipboard and Continuity, I imagine potential evolution of connected productivity solutions. (Enter data on a Watch, track it on an iPad, monitor teams in real time on a Mac, perhaps?)

Touch ID and biometrics

In the wait and see corner, Apple has made Touch ID and Apple Watch even more effective for peers oral identity authorization. For example, macOS Sierra will let you unlock your Mac using your watch; you will pay online using Touch ID…all of these show the company extending use of its biometric authentication. Why would applying this kind of authorization not interest enterprise developers?

Cisco Spark, voicemail transcription

Lots of news in one moment. Apple briefly mentioned its work with Cisco to enable a feature that means voice calls can easily be directed to wherever the person receiving them happens to be using Cisco Spark. That turns out to be one of many enhancements Apple and Cisco have teamed up to make, explained by Cisco’s Rowan Trollope right here.

Apple also discussed voicemail transcription for iOS 10, which may also have positive implications for collaboration. Improvements to the iMessages apps do include emoji, but enterprise developers may also be interested in the promise of an extensible iMessages SDK, a big move that turns the messaging system into a platform around which to build your own collaborative tools.

Et tu, Siri?

Finally (and to be honest it isn't really finally as there are a ton of additional announcements enterprise shops will need to think about), we come to Siri. I'll skip discussion of Apple and A.I., except to observe the company has been working with such technologies since the NeXT days, and to point out the on-device image analysis promised in Photos should be seen as a tangible example of how such technologies can actually be useful in the real world, rather than seeming enticing on a press release.

Siri grew smarter at WWDC yesterday, not only is it more capable of answering complex series of questions, but introduction of the Siri SDK will provide it with more capabilities, including the capacity to add spoken word support to new classes of enterprise app. That latter point gets even more interesting when you consider how this approach may pay dividends to developers building enterprise apps for use across watches to Macs. I don't think we have seen the end of the Siri story this year, by the way -- expect more news as Apple heads to the next big software releases this Fall.

So there we have it, a very brief tour on some potentially useful developments for enterprise pros. Are you aware of more? Please let me know below.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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