Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Impressions of Android M and iOS 9 for the enterprise

When Google and Apple announce new mobile operating systems (Android M and iOS 9) I'm interested in what the new features from two unique perspectives: what the new features will mean to me as a user as well as an enterprise user.  As an Information Technology manager for IBM leading mobile adoption and providing Information Technology (IT) support to senior executives, I need to understand how new features can improve the employee experience and the implications (e.g. security, infrastructure, privacy etc.) for IBM's 380,000+ employees worldwide.  The following are my initial impressions of Android M and iOS 9 and the key enterprise features from my perspective:

Android M
The most important enterprise feature for me in Android M is support for fingerprint scanning. While many Android phones already have fingerprint scanners, Google is adding universal support for fingerprint scanning across its entire platform.  This includes APIs that allow integration with Mobile Device Management (MDM) software like Fiberlink MaaS360, Airwatch, MobileIron and more.  Virtually every enterprise I've worked with, including IBM, requires a device passcode both for BYOD and enterprise devices and it's a pain to enter a device passcode every few minutes.  IBM allows its employees to use Apple TouchID both to unlock the phone and to authenticate with IBM enterprise apps. IBM employees overwhelming prefer the user experience of authenticating with a fingerprint vs. entering an 8-character alphanumeric passcode.  I'm hopeful that the enhancements in Android M will allow IBM to deliver a similar experience to Android users.

iOS 9
Apple published an iOS 8 enterprise page last year and I expect this to be updated to include new iOS 9 features. Apple recently published new enterprise developer page with placeholders for additional content so I suspect more iOS9 enterprise features are coming.  Of the new iOS 9 features I've seen so far, the new split-screen multitasking and updated on-screen keyboard, including a software trackpad for iPad are the key will be of particular interest to enterprise users.  These features should go a long way towards increasing enterprise productivity on an iPad.  In addition, for the first time, iOS 9 will have a public beta without requiring a $99 Apple developer account.  This will make it easier for users to get their hands on iOS 9 prior release and provide feedback both to Apple and to IBM on what apps work with iOS 9 and which don't prior to the release so issue can be addressed.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My 10 years of blogging

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of when I started blogging both inside and outside of IBM.  My first blog was about IBM's new blogging guidelines which encouraged employees to blog.   Aside for 2+ years that I blogged using IBM's Blog Template, all off my external blogging has been on this site which leverages Google Blogger

My stats for the last ten years:

Thursday, May 07, 2015

One Week with the Apple Watch - Hits and Misses

After one week with the Apple Watch, I'm a fan.  However, there is definitely room for improvement. I haven't worn a watch in over 10 years and I debated the Apple Watch long and hard.  Did I really I need an Apple Watch for $400?  After all, my iPhone is always in my pocket and it does way more than just tell time.

I pre-ordered the Apple Watch Sport 42mm (large) in space grey with a black plastic band at 3am ET on April 10 via the Apple Store app on my iPhone.  I already had the watch in my favorites list in the Apple Store app so it took me less than 30 seconds to order the watch before going back to bed.  The e-mail confirmation I received from Apple stated a delivery date of April 24 - May 8.

Apple Watch Sport 42mm (large) with black plastic band

On April 25, I received an email from Apple stating that the watch would be delivered on Monday, April 27.  The watch arrived as scheduled but I was out of town on a business trip and didn't arrive home until Wednesday to unbox the watch.  I also scheduled a personal online training session with Apple to get the watch setup and configured.  It was a fantastic user experience as I could follow along with a real-time video capture of the agent's Apple Watch on the screen and ask all the questions I wanted.  The agent knew all the answers - except for my questions on enterprise usage with Mobile Device Management (MDM)

Screenshot of personal online training session with Apple

My iPhone 6 is provided by my employer, IBM, and is managed by Fiberlink MaaS360 Mobile Device Management software.  IBM imposes an 8 character alphanumeric password but allows me to use TouchID to unlock my iPhone.  Initially, I had issues with unlocking the watch with error messages and such but the issues soon resolved on their own.   To use the watch, I need to have it on my wrist and my phone unlocked.  I'm not able to set any of the passcode, security settings for the watch as they are all greyed out (presumably because I'm using an iPhone managed by MDM).  I hope that Apple publishes a security guide for the Apple Watch, similar to the excellent iOS 8 guide Apple published late last year.  Enterprises need to understand how Apple Watch security works and how integration with Mobile Device Management.

My impressions:


  • Convenience.  If I get a text message or alert, I get a notification instantly and can respond on my watch - far easier than taking my phone out of my pocket.  I love the haptic alerts.
  • Battery life.  While there are lots of complaints about battery life, it hasn't been an issue for me. For me, that hasn't been an issue.  I put on the watch at 7am and usually go to bed by 10pm and I almost always have 50% battery life remaining.
  • Eliminates the need for a Fitbit.  I've been a Fitbit user for over a year (provided by my employer) and I'm a fan.  The Apple Watch provides an opportunity to remove the Fitbit and also add heart beat information a chance to finally use the Apple Health app.  However, I do want to do some testing to compare the accuracy of the two devices.  Also, my employer doesn't yet integrate with the Apple Watch for health tracking (on the Fitbit) so I hope they add support for the watch 
  • Apple Watch App on the iPhone.  Well-designed and easy to configure apps and settings on the Apple Watch.   By default, all e-mails, calendar, notifications and such are displayed on the watch (fire hose setting).  The app allows you to fine tune those settings and reduce the information displayed on the watch so its manageable 


  • The watch is well made and has a beautiful screen but it looks more like a wrist computer and less like a piece of jewelry.  I like the space grey color but not the shape of  watch.  I've seen several scratched stainless steel models.  The aluminum appears less prone to scratches. 
  • Cost.  The watch is too expensive and so are the bands.  I'll definitely be purchasing a third-party leather band.  I like the leather loop with magnet closure but at $149, it's too pricey.  I purchased a spare charger and I'm waiting for my Spigen stand to arrive. 
  • Setup, install, configuration process was a bit buggy but settled down after a few days of use.  I also had problems with the Apple Watch app on the iPhone hanging and crashing.  However, the issues went away after a couple of days
  • Needs better apps.  Apps that try to be a mini version of a Phone app fail miserably.  Apps that take a single function and add it to the watch work best.  I'm a big fan of Microsoft Office Powerpoint mobile which allows me to control slides (forward, back) from the watch.
  • Watch functionality (telling time).  There are only a handful of watch faces with limited customization.  The Apple Watch app on the iPhone should be able to create new watch faces with a highly customized display including background photos
  • Steep learning curve.  It takes time to learn all the features and function. While there are only two buttons, they have multiple functions, the are multiple swipes, Force Touch  and more.  Not all options are available from all apps which adds another level of complexity.  I'm still learning!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Apple Watch and MacBook impressions

I was in New York city over the weekend with my son and had the opportunity to try the new Apple Watch and MacBook for myself at the Apple store on 5th Avenue.  A few initial impressions:

  • It takes a bit of work to understand/navigate the watch interface and understand all the buttons (rotate crown, crown button, side button, touch screen).   However, from other reviews I've read, it's a steep learning curve.  After 15-20 minutes of use, I was starting to get the hang of it.  Still, I'm looking forward to trying the Apple Watch paired with my phone and the apps I use to get a better impression.  
  • The new MacBook is beautiful - thin and light.  While much has been said of the new USB-C connector, I'm glad to finally see progress with a new connector that can provide power, USB and HDMI.  While Apple's adapter is $79, cheaper ones are coming.

On Friday, April 10, the day the Apple Watch preorder and MacBook went on sale, I set my alarm for 3AM ET so I could be one of the first to order the new Apple Watch.  Having already added the Apple Watch Sport 42mm space grey) to my favorites in the Apple Store mobile app, it only took me a few taps to place my order.   My watch is expected to arrive 4/24-5/8.  An estimated 1 million Apple Watches were pre-ordered.  I've never owned a smart watch before but I've followed the market with interest for the past several years.  While I don't expect the Apple Watch to be perfect, it does have most of the features that I'm looking for and as an early adopter, I was willing to give it a try.

I hope to acquire a new MacBook laptop (gold is best!)  for work in the coming months so I'll be sure to post my impressions.  I'll be replacing a 4 year old MacBook Air 11.6.  I'm most looking forward to Bluetooth 4 and using all the Continuity features of iOS 8 and Yosemite.  Stay tuned to this blog.


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

National Engineers Week 2015

I participated in National Engineer's week at my home town middle school with my IBM colleagues earlier today.  IBM is a sponsor of the yearly event which is designed to increase awareness of math and science and foster teamwork and creative thinking.    This was my six year participating in the event and I had the pleasure of presenting to my son's 7th grade science calls

 We each discussed our IBM engineering career, the different types of engineers, and how students can prepare for a career in engineering.  The students were engaged and asked questions about mobile, cloud, analytics, Watson and more.  Each class also participated in a group activity in which they became an "engineer for a day" where they had to work together as team, with limited time and limited materials to design a shoe.

We discussed the new IBM partnership with the Weather Company, connected cars, Internet of Things and the new CogniToys, powered by IBM Watson.  Video is below.