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Time to update your BYOD plans to include Apple Watches

When Apple Watches arrive, they will be yet another mobile device for IT to manage, and enterprises should get busy on determining its best use.

The new Apple Watches are primarily aimed at consumers, but as with any other smart device, IT can expect employees to want to connect new Apple Watches to corporate Wi-Fi networks out of the box.

With the Apple Watch, unveiled this week, users can take and make phone calls, read and send text messages and emails, use its mapping capability and keep track of contacts and calendars.

Those features are just the tip of the iceberg, since Apple also released WatchKit, the app development platform for new Apple Watch apps and modification of existing iOS apps for use on the new wearable device. WatchKit also includes a capability called Glances, where users can get a quick, read-only view of information from an app connected to another iOS device on the Apple Watch.

Apple device junkies are sure to want the Watch when it’s available April 24, and they'll want to use it for work. For IT, that means yet another device to manage. Some employees already use three or four devices on corporate networks. IT has to prioritize that management and may need to redraw policies around workplace use of such devices.

"IT departments will continue to have to rethink what they do around [bring your own device]," said Ned Carman, category manager of client computing at Softchoice Corp., an IT services provider headquartered in Toronto.

Apple Watch – a new enterprise mobility tool?

Enterprises may see some opportunities to use the Apple Watch to their advantage, but pinning down its game-changing enterprise uses is still a ways out, said Michael Oh, founder of Tech Superpowers, an IT managed service provider and Apple reseller based in Boston.

"It's going to be a while before enterprises can wrap their heads around what the Watch can do," Oh said.

Simple uses are apparent now, however. For example, a company CEO can use the device to get notes about essential data including what sales will be closed for the week and what company accountants are saying about costs.

"There's potential here, but it will be a while before we see enterprises coming out with specific plans," Oh said.

Apple Watch will be, in essence, an extension of the smartphone for many users, said Bob O'Donnell, founder and chief analyst with TECHnalysis Research LLC in Foster City, Calif.

It's going to be a while before enterprises can wrap their heads around what the Watch can do.
Michael Ohfounder, Tech Superpowers

"It's going to be more about remote access," O'Donnell said.

Apple is far from the first vendor to develop a smartwatch, with LG, Samsung and Motorola already among companies in the market. But Apple tends to shift markets when it gets involved in a product and enterprises must take notice, said Carman.

"It's a vendor with an amazing portfolio of products that will draw on its existing market," Carman said.

Carman gave an example of a Softchoice employee who used a smartwatch, through Bluetooth, to access her emails on her watch when her smartphone was on the floor above her.

"It can be a huge productivity lift even when you don't have your phone right next to you," he said.

Apple has done a good job of opening up its operating system to third-party enterprise mobility management vendors and it can be expected the Apple Watch will be similarly supported, Oh said.

Apple's openness also came through this week with the introduction of the new open source ResearchKit for iOS, where healthcare developers can build clinical medical research applications.

A challenge around Apple Watch adoption in the enterprise may be the tiny screen. Glances will give users a snapshot of useful information on their Apple Watch yet the small screen could hinder productivity.

"How much patience will people have when dealing with such a small form factor?" Oh said.

Any important piece of business data that can be shown on the watch can also be shown on the iPhone, O'Donnell said.

"It's rarely the case things are so essential to businesses that you need to look in Glances immediately versus pulling out your phone," he said.

The Apple Watch models range in price from $349 to $399 for the Apple Watch Sport, $549 to $599 for the Apple Watch and the high-end Apple Watch Edition will retail at $10,000.

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