Apple needs iOS 7 to do a lot of work. It launches in the Fall when the smartphone market will be at its most competitive for some years. Growth is slowing. There might be a new iPhone (an iPhone 5S), or not. If not iOS 7 will have to hold the fort for Apple until 2014. Even with a new iPhone model, iOS 7 is an important part of the Q3 and Q4 marketing mix.
Chicago-based mobile enterprise developer Solstice believe iOS 7 has enough going for it to maintain a high level of interest in the iPhone and iPad, especially around the emerging field of contextual computing. Solstice are currently setting up a smart office around iOS 7 to demonstrate its capabilities. I spoke with them yesterday.
First though some views on the design from a productivity standpoint. I’ll turn to the UI tomorrow with some thoughts on the interface as a platform for innovation.
The interface design has attracted the most attention so far and has polarized views. However, it could also be that the new OS is a platform for enterprise innovation. If so, it continues Apple’s recent history of building platforms that other people use to innovate and drive revenues (for example iBeacon looks like being a specification that third party manufacturers will use to sell new hardware). That makes it a powerful weapon in the battle against Samsung, even if Google and Android are on a similar path towards contextualization.
Macworld points out that there are 27 features to iOS 7 that Apple barely touched on at the reveal and these include features like the Inclinometer – a variation on the gyroscope that allows the system to track and record 3D movement – which will become very important, very soon.
Solstice place more emphasis on the updates that help provide a platform for contextual computing. “J” Schwan is the CEO there. Schwan reckons that contextual computing is the most important, emerging enterprise mobile paradigm right now. Of course Google has something of a lead here with Google Now, though Now is inhibited by being a consumer service.
Apple, on the other hand, is targeting the enterprise. With iOS 7, Apple is providing a number of features that will allow developers to create better context for their enterprise clients.
iBeacon’s low cost, low power micro-location function will allow enterprises to provide information to their workforce in situ. That might mean ensuring everyone in a meeting automatically has access to all the appropriate information. But it could be any opportunity where information has a role to play could be far better tailored to the potential users of it, say for a field workforce. It could be used for smart devices to communicate with the iPhone or iPad, “or to show me relevant information about the people around me,” adds Schwan.
With true multitasking thrown in, it also opens up the possibility of updating, in the background, all the files necessary for a particular meeting, or after a meeting.
And with Airdrop employees could more easily share information with each other or with clients and partners. All this adds to and makes context easier. Schwan’s big take on iOS 7 is exactly that. He sees the race between Apple and Android right now being to put context first, and that makes these three features, in particular, significant for the evolution of a smart office.
That actually means a return to the old “push” model of information. It’s been a dream of information architects for two decades to be able to push the right information, to the right people, at the right time. In the meantime we got tired of push and went to pull. Now we are headed back with a new generation of contextual tools.
Location expert Steven Feldman wrote about the benefits of some of the geo-context of micro-locations in a recent post on the Sensors and Systems website (link courtesy of Macworld), pointing out the personal navigation possibilities inside large buildings like hospitals, With micro-location technology it would be possible to get precise guidance to where one needs to be. That could also be a feature of many physical security or directional applications. And there’s more:
In addition to navigation, content could be streamed to users dependent on their location – information updates could include case notes for a doctor called to a hospital bed, lecture notes for a student entering a lecture hall or perhaps the holy grail of LBS, location based advertising in the form of details of special offers within a shopping mall or even as you are walking down the aisle of a supermarket.
Google is winning the PR race around contextual computing because of Now, but Schwan believes the two, Apple and Android, are leapfrogging each other rather than breaking ground in new territory. The problem for Google remains fragmentation – Android implementations differ widely and that gives Apple the opening it needs (or its developers need) to create far reaching new experiences for the enterprise (and which hardware makers will almost certainly move in on too).
It makes the Fall the most interesting time in smartphones for some time. Will Apple hold the line with iOS 7? Will Samsung’s rapid manufacturing innovation allow it to keep on creating newsworthy variants of the S4? Or will either of them take a big chance on a new form factor, or new paradigm. We’ve only two months to find out. I’ll be back, tomorrow, with some thoughts on the interface as an innovation platform.
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