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11/8/2011
11:30 PM
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The iPhone 4S: Ready For Business

Apple's latest blockbuster is manageable and secure.

Software Is Where It's At

Just as important as the device, Apple has released its new iOS 5 operating system and the iCloud storage service. Each brings some new features that will interest enterprise IT teams, including:

>> An Android-like notification center, with a pull-down menu strip that can be configured to highlight new mail, text, and voice messages; calendar events; and application-specific notifications, like Twitter mentions or Facebook messages.

>> Apple's new text messaging system, iMessages, allowing users whose colleagues are also in the iOS ecosystem to bypass overpriced SMS messaging services.

>> Reminders, which is a task manager featuring alerts and the capability to sync with whatever calendar is configured on the device, including iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, and Gmail.

>> iCloud integration, which has promise for data management but is a yawner for the enterprise at this stage. The vision Apple painted when introducing iCloud was of a universal content storage back end for both mobile iPhone and iPad and Mac OS applications--Windows support was destined to be limited--sort of a cross between Office 365 and Dropbox.

Maybe iCloud will get there someday, but for now, support from third-party apps has been nonexistent.Contrast that with Dropbox, which virtually every iOS app worth its salt can access. The situation's even grimmer on the PC side, where not even Apple's own iWork suite can access iCloud; if you want to edit a Pages document started on your iPad, you've got to log into iCloud via the browser and download a copy to the local disk.

Furthermore, with iCloud, Apple has eliminated its cloud-based file share, iDisk. Instead, it's adopted the Google model, where all access to cloud-based storage must go through an application. While this makes for a compelling long-term vision--one in which file systems themselves vanish and applications automatically access and store content and state information in a cloud-based utility--until a sufficient number of apps actually work this way, it's a step back from systems like Dropbox or S3 buckets with a client like Cyberduck.

Perhaps the biggest enhancement is the Siri voice-recognition software assistant. Siri gives the 4S a HAL-9000-like voice-command interface for doing tasks from dictating text and email messages to creating calendar events to querying for flight information. In action, Siri's cloud-assisted voice recognition is both fast and accurate; the system is adept at basic functions like calling or messaging contacts by name or performing Web searches; however, more complicated transactions, like scheduling calendar items, get tricky.

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