iOS 7 Shows Up Buffed for Business
Sep 20, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Apple's servers were working overtime Wednesday as the new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 7, became available for download by the public.
iOS 7 has a number of new features that should appeal to consumers who are fans of Apple's iPhone, iPod and iPad, but it also contains features to bolster the company's already strong position in the enterprise.
The most obvious change in the software is its new flat interface. It will be jarring to old timers accustomed to icons that emulate analog objects.
Departing from past skeuomorphics isn't just Apple putting a pretty new face on iOS.
"It's more than cosmetic," Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research, told MacNewsWorld. "There's a payoff in simplifying the design."
However, some adjustment may be required on the part of experienced users, he acknowledged.
"There's a significant disruption, because most of the icons that have become so familiar and instantly recognizable have been replaced by something similar but different enough to make you ask yourself, 'Where is it?'" he explained.
There are some inconsistencies in the interface as well.
"Not all developers have gone through the entire process of providing an iOS 7 look-and-feel in their applications," Golvin noted. "So it can be a sort of mixed metaphor when you go from the Apple application -- all of which have been updated -- versus other applications that have not gone through that yet."
"That can be disconcerting," he added. "A period of adjustment will be necessary."
That doesn't seem to be deterring download traffic, though. Within the first 24 hours of availability, 18 percent of North American iOS traffic was generated by iOS 7 users, according to analytics firm Chitika. By comparison, when iOS 6 was introduced, it generated 15 percent of the iOS traffic within it first 24 hours of availability.
Also among the new features is a control panel to give an Apple jock one tap access to common functions such as WiFi, Bluetooth and Do Not Disturb. The panel also provides music controls and access to the timer and camera apps, as well as enabling use of the LCD flash as a flashlight.
"Things you want to have at your fingertips can be accessed with fewer steps now," Golvin said. "That's a primary benefit of iOS 7."
"Some might argue that that's a little bit of catch-up to what Android already offers in some cases," he added, "although Apple has done it in an elegant way."
Better Multitasking, Privacy
Many users will appreciate the new auto update feature in iOS 7. It allows installed apps to update themselves without a user going through the rigmarole of entering an Apple ID.
Multitasking has also been improved in the new iOS.
"It's much easier to seamlessly switch between running applications, killing things that you don't want running, and seeing what the state of the machine is," Golvin said.
Privacy settings are more detailed in iOS 7. You can block information from being sent to Apple, such as location or diagnostic and usage data. You can gain visibility into which apps are accessing info like location, contacts, pictures, calendars and Bluetooth sharing.
Apple has brought AirDrop to iOS from its desktop operating system, OS X.
"That's an interesting change," ABI Research Mobile Devices Analyst Michael Morgan told MacNewsWorld.
"Suddenly we can set up ad hoc networks where we can share information in a P2P format," he continued. "That has some interesting implications if that becomes a use case for these devices. That reduces the dependence on the carrier for connectivity. Millions of iPhone subnetworks could be created."
No. 1 in Enterprise
Businesses may not become enamored of AirDrop, though.
"We have never been fans of peer-to-peer file sharing, and we believe that most enterprises will want to disable this feature," Ken Dulaney, vice president for mobile computing at Gartner, wrote in a research note.
Nevertheless, with iOS 7, Apple is making a real play for the enterprise crowd, according to Dulaney.
"With the announcement of iOS 7, Apple seems to have turned a new page in providing the enterprise some of what it has long been waiting for," he observed. "Unlike the iOS 5 and iOS 6 releases, which contained only minor updates to its enterprise features, Apple has prioritized a number of enterprise management needs, added features that expand business usefulness, and corrected a number of incomplete or insufficient concepts launched in earlier versions."
Among those features are the ability to assign bundles of apps to use a VPN, better support of mobile device management, an activation lock that can't be skirted by resetting a machine, and mass device enrollment.
"By 2016," Dulaney predicted, "Apple iOS devices will be the No. 1 smartphone platform purchased and supplied to end users by the enterprise."