Apple’s Velvet Handcuffs

Apple Silver LogoApple’s recent victory over Samsung got me thinking about to company and their increasing influence on the technology industry. Love them or hate them, you have to respect their innovation and their ability to make things work better together as long as you stay in the Apple orbit.

Their recent release of OS X, Mountain Lion continues to put velvet handcuffs on people who own iPhones, iPads and other Macs. For example, three iPhone/iPad apps are now on the Mac too. Notes, Reminders, and Game Center  join Photo Stream, Mail, Calendar and Contacts as cloud-based apps. The release of iOS 6 in a couple of weeks will further cement this OS X and iOS integration.

All of these sync with other Apple machines wirelessly, courtesy of Apple’s free, increasingly sophisticated iCloud service. The new apps join Mail, Calendar and Contacts, which already sync with your iGadgets. Change a phone number on your phone, and it’s instantly updated on your tablet and computer; set up a reminder on your Mac, and your phone will alert you at the appointed time or even place.

It’s all extremely useful and a bit magical if you own more than one Apple device. Clearly, the company wants to keep you a happy prisoner inside its beautiful walled garden. Their stock price reflects this as they are the most valuable company in the world.

Can they keep it up? Is it good for the industry? Let me know what you think.

The Shift from the Desktop to the Pocket

The IT center of gravity has shifted from the desktop to the pocket.  This shift has been made possible by coupling cloud services and the plethora of powerful mobile devices with their app store and accessory ecosystems.

The rationale behind this transition is pretty obvious to just about everyone – we live in a mobile world. We all carry powerful easy-to-use mobile devices, and we all prefer the cloud-based easy-to-consume application experiences to go with them. The desktops and laptops are getting less use and the tablets and smartphones have quickly become our primary go-to devices.

Consumers have made their preferences clear – they want mobile apps on their smartphones and tablets. Now it’s up to enterprise IT organizations to figure out what to do about it. And it’s not easy. For example, IT has to think about devices, security and networks differently. We have to think about how applications are constructed, consumed and supported differently.

There are still plenty of desktops and laptops hanging around that aren’t going away anytime soon and we will have to continue to support them for a long time. This shift from the desktop to the pocket isn’t a choice. It is happening with or without IT and our success or failure is determined by how we organize, how we build and integrate these capabilities, and how we integrate mobile into the services we offer.

In order to succeed in the mobile first world, you’ll need to organize for success. This means you can’t just support mobile like you did laptops and expect to have success.  When we started, we didn’t have the skills, the team, or the organizational structure to make progress. We hired dedicated mobility professionals and established a dedicated Mobility department that was charged with becoming trusted advisors to our clients. They have to keep up with the rapidly changing world of smartphones, tablets and the wireless carriers they run on.

Similarly, we have had to approach mobile application development different than traditional enterprise application development. It requires a completely different mindset for success. You can’t  simply miniaturize a desktop application. You need to think about finger-friendly applications that run natively on the mobile device and a great user experience is absolutely paramount. People’s patience with mobile apps is incredibly short; if they hit any sort of bump they will move on to something else.

And of course, we have to always balance the user experience with risk, so we strive for the appropriate balance between control and easy data access. This caused a fundamental change in the way we view security. Instead of a “inside-out” approach where we had all assets inside the corporate firewall protected by a “defense in depth” strategy, we now have an outside-in approach where all applications live on the internet and come “outside-in.” This is a fundamental flip of the security model.

We want to think mobile first and foremost going forward, which means you tend to think in terms of sustainable and scalable platforms and processes vs. specific point technologies and isolated use cases. We also think in terms of the entire “stack” of app use cases, app user experience, security and risk, access, and supporting services.

My use of Evernote for my GTD implementation had done more to evolve my understanding of the “mobile first” world we are rapidly moving towards than all the industry advisory groups, trade magazines and conferences combined.