Monday, September 22, 2014

Upgrading the enterprise to iOS 8 and iPhone 6

Apple released iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 last week and the upgrade is well underway inside IBM.  IBM has over 125,000 mobile devices in use with iPhones and iPads being the most popular smartphones and tablets. IBM began testing iOS 8 when the first beta was released in June to ensure that applications that IBM sells to customers as well as the applications that IBM has developed internally work with iOS 8.

Key applications like Fiberlink MaaS360, IBM Traveler, Connections and others had support for Apple iOS 8 the day it was released.   Other applications like Sametime chat, Meetings and Worklight had updates available shortly after the release.

Employees began upgrading to iOS 8 on Wednesday, September 17 as soon as employees started receiving the update from Apple.   IBM employees in Australia were the first to purchase the new iPhone 6 on Friday, September 19 and enroll their devices in Fiberlink MaaS360 to connect to IBM's corporate infrastructure.   To date, there are over 100,000 Apple iOS, Google Android smartphones and tablets enrolled in Fiberlink MaaS360 - the same cloud-based mobile enterprise management solution in use by thousands of clients around the globe.

On a personal note, I've upgraded a total of twelve Apple devices - work, personal and family devices, to iOS 8 without a hitch.  My wife upgraded from an iPhone 5 to the new iPhone 6 (AT&T) and I'll be upgrading my corporate owned device in the coming weeks.  The changes in the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.  My thoughts:

  • Multitasking e-mail allows multiple mail windows to be open simultenously.  Just swipe down while creating a new email or reading an email and you can flip between browser windows. 
  • Autocomplete and the availability of third party keyboards make it easier and faster to type
  • Handoff allows you start a task on one device and pick up on another device,   While iOS 8 is supported today, for example, you can start to compose an email on an iPhone and pickup on the iPad, integration with OS/X requires Yosemite - currently in beta.
  • HealthKit: lots of promise but unfortunately, Apple has temporarily disabled integration with apps as it works through bugs. 
  • Apply Pay: of the three announcements at Apple's last event (iPhone, Watch, Payments), this was the one that I was most excited about.  Inclusion of NFC in the iPhone 6 allows tap to pay and integration with Passbook for secure transactions.  Retailers plan to start rolling this out just in time for the holiday shopping season.  I can't wait!
  • Battery usage of specific apps is now available via Settings - General - Usage so you can tell which apps are using the most battery power
  • "Hey Siri" hands free.  A welcome feature to activate Siri via voice without having to touch the phone.  Required that the Phone/iPad be plugged in and charging
  • Family Sharing.  As a parent of three kids with iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices, I was looking forward to this feature so myself and my wife could be notified of purchase requests from the kids.  However, I was disappointed to learn that Family Share doesn't support iTunes Match in the iCloud.  Hopefully,  this will be addressed in a future release.  In the meantime, I'll continue to leverage a single iTunes ID on all the family's devices to share purchased apps and iTunes Match
  • Touch ID API.   Previously, the fingerprint reader was limited to device passwords and iTunes purchases.  Now, you can  authenticate with any app using the fingerprint reader that leverages the new API. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Enterprise Implications of the iPhone 6, iOS8 and the Upcoming Apple Watch

My interest in the new iPhone 6, iOS 8 and the upcoming Apple Watch is more than just personal. I'm part of the team responsible for enabling "MobileFirst" for 435,000+ IBM employees world-wide.

Inside IBM, we support three mobile platforms: Apple iOS, Google Android and BlackBerry. IBM provides corporate owed devices to select employees in addition to offering a BYOD or Bring Your Own Device program. At present, there are over 125,000 smartphones and tablets in use inside IBM.

Apple's iPhone/iOS8/Watch/Payments event and press release on Tuesday has far-reaching implications for the enterprise - including IBM which recently entered into a partnership with Apple.  Many IBM employees will be upgrading their phones to the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on September 19.  In addition, many iPhone 5S, 5, 4S, iPad 2, 3, 4, Air, iPad Mini (standard and retina) and iPod Touch 5 will be upgrading to iOS 8 when it's released on September 17.  There are a number of key features in iOS 8 that will appeal directly to enterprises including:
  • Expanded data protection
  • Automatic reply (e.g. out of the office), calendar free/busytime search, swipe, drag to flag, mark and delete e-mails, per message S/MIME, VIP thread.  Many enterprises run the business on email and saving just a few seconds each time a user checks e-mail can add up.  
  • iCloud Drive. Includes the ability to access files from both iOS and OS/X without creating duplicates by copying to multiple iOS applications (containers). In addition, Apple is including storage provider extensions in iOS 8 for any app to connect to storage providers (e.g. Dropbox, OneDrive etc.).  This feature also introduces security issues with storing confidential, corporate data on the cloud.
  • Increased inter-app functionality and usability such as the ability to annotate a PDF file from within the mail application. 
  • API for Touch ID allows integration with applications for authentication.  Today, Touch ID is only used to unlock the device and making iTunes purchases.  IBM enforces a device password on mobile devices but also supports Touch ID to unlock the iPhone 5S which is a huge productivity gain for users.  The alternative is entering an 8-digit, alphanumeric password after 15 minutes of inactivity.   It will be great to be able to use Touch ID as an alternative to entering passwords for both enterprise and consumer applications.  This feature will become even more useful when Apple releases new iPads with Touch ID 
  • A new programming language, Swift, compliments Objective-C and should make it even easier for application developers to create mobile applications quickly. 

The addition of NFC to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the upcoming Apple Watch offers a wealth of possibilities for the enterprise!  For example, enterprises could sunset plastic employee badges and move to a digital badge, stored on the iPhone that could be used to open doors.  Apple Payment uses proven NFC technology and the Apple focus on the user experience, security and the partnerships with banks and retailers will help drive the adoption of mobile payments.   This introduces opportunities for IBM to assist clients with developing solutions that leverages Apple Payments.

How will Apple's announcements impact the deployment of iOS solutions at your enterprise?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

US Open Tennis 2014

I attended the US Open tennis tournament last Friday evening with my son. Readers of this blog will recall my previous visits to the US Open in 2013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. This year, I attended the Friday night session and saw two matches which included Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova.  Celebrities in attendance included comedian Will Ferrell and former NYC mayor David Dinkins. Photos of the event can be found on Facebook

As in the past, IBM is a major sponsor and provides the USOpen.org website, game scoring, statistics and court side radar guns.  Mobile applications for Apple iOS and Google Android were back again this year as well as an Apple iPad-specific applications which made it easy to view news, match data, player stats, live high-definition video, live radio and Twitter feeds from the U.S. Open and players.  In addition, interactive maps of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center with integrated GPS made it easy to get from point A to point B. As in the past, American Express distributed free headsets to follow the play-by-play.

New this year, IBM and musician James Murphy are turning US Open match data into live streaming music in real time with the IBM Cloud.  The project is called "US Open Sessions"  I had the opportunity to experience this first hand at the American Express Fan Experience.  I've included a few photos below.






Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Google Chromebook for Back to School

The first day of elementary school for my two sons and daughter is this Thursday, August 28.  With the new school year comes a decision on what device(s) they'll use to do their school work - both in class and at hime.  Readers of this blog may recall my post from last year where I discussed how my middle school-aged son uses a Google Chromebook.    This year I have another son entering middle school and I have to make a similar decision.   Looking back over the past year, here are my perceptions of the original Samsung Chromebook:
  • Perfected suited to my son's curriculum which includes heavy use of Google Apps for Education.  Google is also rolling out "Classroom" for teachers to "create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and easily communicate with their classes."  It will be interesting to see if my sons' school adopts Google Classroom. 
  • Low cost.  However, the Samsung Chromebook does have a low-cost look and feel.  In fact, a strip of grey plastic recently broke off the back.  I was, however, able to use super glue to repair it.  
  • Low maintenance.  I'm the technical support desk for my family and aside from the broken piece of plastic mentioned about, there was nothing I needed to do to the Chromebook for an entire year.  The Chromebook provides automatic updates and there were no virus or security issues.  Setup was also a breeze - turn on the Chromebook, log into Google and that's it!
With a positive experience with the Samsung Chromebook, I was leaning heavily towards another Chromebook for my second son.   With several additional manufacturers now making Chromebooks (Acer, HP, ASUS, Samsung, etc.) there are lots of choices.  After a trip to my local Best Buy to see the options in person, my son decided on the Acer C720P touchscreen Chromebook which also happened to be on sale for $260.  It's a great looking laptop made of low gloss white plastic, with a quality look and feel that beats the original Samsung Chromebook hands down.   My son has already started to use his new Acer Chromebook to complete summer schoolwork and likes it.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on its own "Chromebook killer" and and is partnering with HP and others to deliver a low-cost Windows lapto.  For example, HP has announced their new "Stream laptop" due out soon for $200 and leverages upgraded HP Chromebook 14 hardware.   I'll be taking a look at this laptop when its available.

Finally, I purchased a Canon PIXMA MX472 printer on sale from Amazon for $50 with support for both Apple AirPrint and Google CloudPrint.  While AirPrint didn't involve any setup and is working out the box, I'm struggling to register the printer with Google CloudPrint.  I receive an error on the printer on the last step of the setup process:  "Cannot connect to the server, try again."  I'll keep trying.

Friday, August 22, 2014

IBM Business Tech Trends Report 2014 Now Available

The annual IBM Business Tech Trends Report is now available.  To understand how organizations are using big data and analytics, cloud, mobile, and social technologies, the IBM Center for Applied Insights conducted a survey of  1,447 decision makers.  Fifty-two percent work in organizations of 1,000 or more employees and 48 percent are from companies with fewer employees.

The study identified three common characteristics of successful enterprises:
  1. Partnering is in their DNA. While 40 percent of companies still have moderate to major skills gaps, Pacesetters are busy plugging their skills gaps by partnering with external developers. However, they’re not just using tried-and-true professional developers – nearly 80 percent of Pacesetters are also turning to citizen developers to leverage data and APIs to develop crowdsourced solutions.
  2. Analytics is their fuel.  The hallmark of an analytically fueled organization is having a culture that’s inclined to act on analytical results and insights. And nearly 70 percent of Pacesetters say analytics are integral to how their organizations make decisions. 
  3. Leaders are combining mobile, social, cloud and analytics technologies to break away from the pack.  While each of these technologies are transformative on their own, the total is greater than the sum of its parts and leading enterprises are adopting all four.
The full report is available for free as as downloadable PDF.   In addition to the report, there are videos, interactive dashboard, infographics and other materials available.   Finally, you can follow the discussion online via #IBMBTT on Twitter