Despite delivering excellent business solutions in many of its products, there’s always a consistent refrain that Apple doesn’t understand business customers or corporate computing needs. Apple didn’t focus on many specific business uses of the new and upcoming products announced during today’s WWDC keynote. If you look closely, however, there are definite signs that Apple is designing iOS 6 and Mountain Lion,.
Do not disturb – All mobile professionals have had the experience of calls, texts, and other notifications popping up at just the wrong time in the middle of a meeting. The challenge is that you may need to leave your phone on for urgent calls or status updates but at the same time, you don’t want to be distracted by non-critical emails or personal calls. The new iOS do not disturb option is designed for those situations and will stop notifications from interrupting. Even better is that iOS 6 will let you tailor what types of calls actually ring through to your iPhone and which automatically go to voicemail. It’ s a great addition to the feature that it can also recognize emergency calls and pass them through.
Call management – Apple didn’t stop with just giving you the power to determine who can reach you. The Phone app in iOS 6 delivers some really great options when you receive a call but can’t answer it (because you’re in a meeting, you’re in the middle of a complex task, or for any other reason). In addition to answering or declining the call, you can now immediately respond to the caller with a message – that let’s coworkers, colleagues, and clients/customers know that you’re not simply ignoring them and that you will get back to them as soon as you can. You can also decline the call and have your iPhone set a reminder to return the call. That reminder can be based on a time or location – the location option is particularly appealing because you can be reminded about personal calls when you leave the office or get home.
VIP Mail filtering – Every professional has some contacts that are more important than others. Your boss, certain employees that report to you, high-profile clients/customers, and key suppliers or consultants are some examples. These are often people who you need to hear from regardless of what else is going on. The new VIP feature in Mail allows you to easily designate those people as VIPs. Messages from get special treatment including notifications in your iPhone or iPad’s lock screen ensuring that you know immediately if there is a problem, a change in plans, or other information that you need to act on quickly.
Multiple Mail signatures – It only took Apple five years to get around to acknowledging that a large number of iPhone/iPad owners use multiple email accounts. Generally that means one or more work/professional accounts as well as one or more personal accounts. For work accounts, an email signature identifying your name, contact information, company, and position is as important, if not more important, than your business card. You may even need multiple signatures for different work accounts. Apple is finally addressing that longstanding need in iOS 6
Automatically disabling notifications when using a projector – Do not disturb functionality is built into the Notification Center in Mountain Lion as well as iOS 6. When a Mac is being used to deliver a presentation or demo via a projector, notifications are automatically hidden. That may not seem like a big deal, but a sales presentation, product demo, or classroom training/teaching event could easily be disrupted by notifications – and personal notifications can be even more distracting and potentially embarrassing. Apple clearly gets that and wants to ensure business users look professional even when they might forget to turn off notifications.
Unified messaging and video calling – Unified communications is a common buzzword in the business and IT world. The idea is that coworkers, business associates, clients, and contractors can reach you using multiple contact mechanisms in real-time and that messaging transcripts are available to you whenever and wherever you need them. For most businesses, unified communications is an ideal that isn’t always achieved. Apple is bringing the unified communications mindset to its various call and messaging systems in Mountain Lion and iOS 6. The Messages app will sync conversations so they’re available on all devices and Macs, allowing you to continue a conversation anytime and anyplace. FaceTime is also gaining a form of unified communications in that your phone number and Apple ID are both integrated as contact mechanisms meaning a coworker can use FaceTime on his or her iPhone and call you by your iPhone’s number but you can answer using your Mac or iPad.
Of course, these six items aren’t the only business features in Mountain Lion or iOS 6, but they are significant examples of Apple addressing business needs.