Apple Boosts the Enterprise Cloud
Apple's big springtime software announcement this week contained a few nuggets for enterprises looking to implement cloud technologies for business. These include enhancements to messaging, voice recognition and an intriguing technology to collect customer big data while also preserving privacy.
At its annual WorldWide Developers Conference Monday, Apple laid out a panoply of upgrades to its operating systems for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Most of the upgrades were for consumers, but Apple distributed some nuggets that could prove valuable for enterprises using the cloud for business. (See Apple WWDC News: Twitter Brings the Funny and WWDC: 5 Top Updates for Apple's tvOS.)
Apple lays out details for developers here, but there are still plenty of questions on just how broadly useful the new technologies will be to enterprises. Expect more answers to surface between now and when the new software ships in the autumn.
Start with messaging. Third-party developers, including enterprises, will be able to write app extensions that integrate with the Messages app. It's primarily designed to send text, stickers, media files and interactive messages. The big question: Will developers be able to use the APIs to create chatbots that reduce dependence on apps? Consumers looking to buy flowers, order movie tickets, call up a car service or buy plane tickets would be able to interact with a software bot through Messages, rather than having to download an app or go to a site on the mobile web.
That's the direction Facebook is taking with its Messenger app, which competes with Messages. Chatbots are already wildly popular for doing business in China, and it seems likely they would catch on here, particularly among consumers who don't want to fuss with downloading and installing an app for what might be a one-time transaction. (See Facebook to Announce Messenger 'Chatbots' for Business – Report.)
Apple Pay gets enhanced to allow users to make secure payments over the web and through interactions with Siri and Maps. Says Apple: "When you support Apple Pay in your website, users browsing with Safari [on the iPhone, iPad, or Mac] can make payments using their cards in Apple Pay on their iPhone or Apple Watch." That should help reduce shopping cart abandonments for retail sites and -- again -- reduce the need for consumers to install apps to do business.
Siri is coming to the Mac, and getting enhancements to allow Apple's voice assistant to control third-party apps. Until now, users could only use Siri to control Apple's own Apps. For example, a user could ask Siri for directions in Apple Maps but not Google Maps. Now, Apple is broadening Siri support for third-party apps -- but only a limited subset, specifically audio and video calling, messaging, sending or receiving payments, searching photos, booking a ride and managing workouts.
So you're in luck if you're an enterprise in the fitness or transportation industry, or you want to let your employees use Siri to initiate calls on the company universal communications system. But most enterprise apps will have to wait for Siri support.
And speaking of universal communications -- VoIP apps will now get priority treatment alongside Apple's own Phone app. VoIP will get access to the phone's UI, viewing and answering incoming VoIP calls on the lock screen, managing contacts and more. That's great news for enterprises that have installed unified comms systems, whose users previously had to install and juggle apps to make and receive calls.
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