Apple unveiled a variety of features and functions we can look forward to in iPhone OS 4.0--due out this summer for the iPhone, but not until sometime this fall for the iPad. There are updates to the OS that will benefit consumers, as well as those that benefit business professionals and IT administrators--like improving remote telecommuting from the iPhone and iPad platforms.
Face it, portability and convenience are two of the primary benefits of the iPhone and iPad. But, the lack of multitasking, security, and remote management capabilities makes them both poor platforms for Apple's target audience in the enterprise--road warriors and mobile business professionals on the go.
The changes being introduced in iPhone OS 4.0 deliver the features business professionals need to use the devices--the iPad in particular--as a notebook replacement on the go while remaining in touch and accountable to the office. iPhone OS 4.0 also provides IT administrators with the functions they need to embrace the platform a little less reluctantly, and be able to effectively manage remote iPhones and iPads.
I have maintained--and still do--that multitasking is not necessarily a requirement for a smartphone like the iPhone. It would be nice for apps to remember their state and resume when you return to them, but you can't have more than one app visible on a 3.5 inch, 480 by 320 pixel display anyway.
The iPad, however, is a different story. Roaming business professionals can attend meetings virtually using the Cisco Webex app. I haven't had the opportunity to use the app yet, but my editor Robert Strohmeyer has and he had high praise for the experience.
That said, with the current iPhone OS in the iPad, iPhone OS 3.2, you can't switch away from the Webex to check e-mail, or look something up on the Web. I am sure that the meeting presenter appreciates the undivided attention of a captive audience, but a Webex presentation is a perfect example of a situation where multitasking is virtually a requirement.
While Apple is implementing multitasking in iPhone OS 4.0, it is still not true, or complete, multitasking. Apple went out of its way to determine a way to allow various apps to continue to run in the background with minimal impact to the processing horsepower or battery life of the device. Rather than leaving complete apps hogging resources in the background, Apple's approach was to identify just the core functions commonly run in the background and develop a way for third-party apps to access those functions even when the app is not active.
Another scenario where multitasking is necessary is with VoIP apps like Skype. The Skype app allows business professionals to place free Skype-to-Skype VoIP calls over Wi-Fi connections, or place low-cost calls to non-Skype phones, as well as chat with Skype contacts. On a device like the iPad--which isn't also a phone--an app like Skype can be a valuable tool for keeping in touch while on the go.
The only problem is that you have to be actively using the Skype app in order for it to be live. If you switch away to check e-mail, or write a memo in Pages, or join a Webex meeting, Skype will be unavailable and nobody will be able to contact you via VoIP or chat through Skype.
Thankfully, a peripheral benefit of the multitasking is that Apple is also introducing services that third-party apps--like Skype--can tap into in order to maintain VoIP connectivity while using other apps. With iPhone OS 4.0, business professionals can be conversing via Skype with a co-worker about data in a spreadsheet, and switch to Numbers to view the data without dropping the VoIP call.
There are other benefits of iPhone OS 4.0 that should make the iPhone and iPad more valuable productivity tools for business professionals on the go--making the iPad a more capable notebook replacement.
Changes to the VPN functionality will allow new technologies from Cisco and Juniper to work with the iPhone and iPad--providing seamless, automatic VPN connectivity. New methods for managing the devices in an enterprise, and deploying apps wirelessly, as well as improved security and encryption features will also greatly enhance the iPhone and iPad as business tools.
Now, if Apple could just get the front and rear-facing cameras installed in the next-generation iPad hardware so the iPad can also be used for video calls and video conferencing, we should be all set.