Businesses had much to cheer about after Apple unveiled Snow Leopard and iPhone 3G S at its WWDC event this week. Apple, which traditionally prioritizes business needs below consumer ones, hinted at a change of heart by announcing Exchange support and security features in its flagship products.
IT leaders in charge of supporting Apple products who we talked to this week were generally excited about the new Snow Leopard and iPhone 3G S. They sounded off about many features-not just Exchange support-and their plans to take advantage of the tweaks. Yet they also tempered their enthusiasm about some of the flashier features such as iPhone video clip creation.
Snow Leopard plays into business needs
Snow Leopard will support Exchange across email, contacts and calendaring. Mac users will be able to create invites, schedule conference rooms and tap into Exchange's global address list. "We are swapping out our PCs for Macs in our office, and so the Exchange compatibility will definitely be used," says Brad Kugler, CEO of DVA, a distributor of video and audio equipment.
Kugler says he's also looking forward to Snow Leopard's smaller profile. The operating system is expected to free up memory. "Hey, 6 GB of extra space on hard drives is valuable real estate gained," he says. "I'd pay the $29 upgrade just for that."
For companies not on Exchange, there are other benefits. "Since we don't have Exchange here, [that feature] does nothing for us," says Yau-Man Chan, CTO for the college of chemistry at UC Berkeley. "The support for touch screen, though, is interesting and may make the Mac platform useful for information booth setups."
Brian Keare, CFO at Circle of Friends, a seller of baby bath products, says he's excited about the next-generation iChat. Indeed, many companies use iChat as a remote management tool for Macs. "Next-gen iChat will further improve our experience communicating with telecommuters and our backoffice in India," he says.
But Snow Leopard still lacks some important enterprise tools, says Kugler, notably PC self-diagnostics. "It would be nice for some OS-based tool to give you a report on what is causing the slows and how to fix them and bring the OS back to factory fresh speeds with simple point and click remedies," he says. "I know there are aftermarket stuff, but those I think add to the problem."
iPhone closes in on corporate e-mail needs
Kuglar sat out on the last iPhone upgrade but plans to get iPhone 3G S when it becomes available later this month. His current 8 GB iPhone is already running into memory space, and so he's eagerly eyeing the 32 GB iPhone 3G S version. "I also like the integration of the voice recognition and am sure I'll get a lot of use out of that," he says.
Nearly everyone is happy about long-overdue iPhone features such as cut-and-paste, landscape keyboard for all applications and enhanced search. MMS (multimedia messaging service) features that come with the iPhone 3G S are nice, too, IT leaders say, although they won't be available because carrier AT&T doesn't support them yet.
On the hardware side, Apple touted new video capabilities, high-resolution camera, and voice commands. CIOs, though, weren't as impressed with these tweaks. "They're interesting but won't move our Blackberry users over," Chan says. "We also use NotifyLink to sync our Blackberrys to CalAgenda over the air, so unless that's available as an add-on for the new iPhone there won't be much interest" among Blackberry users to make the switch.
The iPhone 3G S will offer some powerful security features. "I think we were all surprised to see the inclusion of device-level encryption," says an IT manager at a university, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I know we'll wait to see how this will be managed and if it is appropriate for enterprise-level requirements."
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