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Here Come Enterprise Apps for Apple Watch

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Posted April 24, 2015 By Ann All     Feedback

Enterprise software vendors wasted no time in rolling out applications for the Apple Watch.

Many experts believe the success of the Apple Watch, which is landing in the eager hands of early adopters today, will hinge on the apps. That may be a problem, given the somewhat motley assortment now on offer, which according to the Wall Street Journal includes "a surprising amount of junk, clustered into some predictable themes: calculators, dice rollers, coin flippers, tic-tac-toe boards and timers of every stripe." Indeed, there are 23 dice options, the WSJ points out.

SmartWatchLet's hope the enterprise, which is much stronger market for the Apple Watch, will show more good sense.

When I recently interviewed Ramon Llamas, IDC's research manager for Wearables, Mobile Phones and Smartphones, he told me that the enterprise had more immediate use cases for the Apple Watch than the consumer market, thanks to workers who do not have a desk job but who can benefit from timely delivery of information.

"Within the enterprise it's a given that you are working toward some sort of goal, you want to make work life easier by surfacing information that is useful to you at a given point in time, whereas in the consumer world we are trying to figure out what in the heck we want to do with a smartwatch," he said.

Wearables in the Enterprise

Wearables are already making inroads in the enterprise, he said, noting that CommandWear has a  partnership with smartwatch maker Pebble to provide two-way text messaging for first responders like paramedics.

Other experts agree that the enterprise is marking early inroads into wearable technology like smartwatches. "The enterprise market is where all the action is," said Forrester Research analyst JP Gownder, who writes about wearable computing extensively on his blog, when I interviewed him in December. "Wearable technology is flipping the consumerization of IT on its head."

Given this, it is not at all surprising that companies are wasting no time in rolling out enterprise apps for the Apple Watch. Zoho introduced this morning a line of apps that extend selected Zoho functionality to the Apple Watch. The three apps are:

  • Zoho Expense, which enables users to track and record trip mileage from the watch with a tap;
  • Zoho Books, which allows users to track and record time spent on a project and perform invoicing activities such as viewing unpaid invoices and sending payment reminders;
  • Taskz, which provides reminder notifications for tasks created in Zoho Mail, with reminders delivered both visually and via the Apple Watch's haptic feedback feature

The apps are free and can be downloaded via the Apple App Store.

Zoho intends to offer more Apple Watch apps, said Raju Vegesna, Zoho chief evangelist, noting that the company will focus on tasks that take just seconds to execute but are often inconvenient for users to perform from a laptop or smartphone.

"If you have a few hours of number crunching or heavy research, you'll likely do that on a desktop or laptop. If your task takes just a few minutes – entering expense information, for instance – a smartphone is probably the preferred tool. Now, Apple Watch is the tool for tasks that take a few seconds, like getting task reminders and tracking time or mileage from your wrist," he said.

Also this morning, Blue Jeans Network, a provider of video collaboration services, released an Apple Watch app that sends meeting reminder notifications, provides a view of upcoming meetings, displays the time remaining until a meeting via a feature called Countdown Glance and provides access to a meeting on a paired iPhone.

Like the Zoho apps, the Blue Jean app is now available on Apple's App Store.

Apple Watch's Discreet Interface

"It’s much more natural — and discreet — to glance at your watch in the middle of a meeting than it is to dig out your phone," said David Maldow, founder and CEO of Let's Do Video, in a statement. "Blue Jeans for Apple Watch provides the kind of information and notifications that make sense on your wrist, while helping you gracefully move from one meeting to the next without navigating through calendar appointments or menus."

The ability to discreetly perform business tasks is easier on a smartwatch than a smartphone and is something many folks tout as a key to successful enterprise apps.

Kevin Roberts, general manager of Platform and Alliances for FinancialForce, told me he and other FinancialForce employees use the smartwatch app the company built, that pushes notifications from its flagship cloud ERP application to a smartwatch. "It surfaces your ERP notifications the same way you get Facebook or Twitter notifications," he explained.

Checking and responding to notifications on a smartwatch does not interrupt a flow of activity or a social interaction, Roberts said. "It's the height of rudeness to crack open a laptop or bring out my phone when I am talking to someone. This way, I can see what is going on and respond to it as needed while continuing to have a conversation."

Daniel Debow, senior VP of the Salesforce's Emerging Technology division, said that smartwatches like the Apple Watch are great for jobs in industries like sales and hospitality, which require workers to interact with people around them. Such workers would benefit from smartwatch apps that might tie into Saleforce's Service Cloud to provide relevant information about customers. They could discreetly (there is that word again) retrieve the information while continuing to serve the customer, Debow said.

Apple Watch for Authentication

One question mark regarding the Apple Watch's use in the enterprise is its security – or lack thereof. MicroStrategy is trying to get ahead of some of the security-related concerns by offering an Apple Watch app on its Usher security platform, which provides secure authentication by replacing traditional forms of identity such as passwords and tokens with biometric mobile identity and multi-factor authentication.

Usher for Apple Watch will essentially enable users to use the smartwatch as a secure digital key, according to MicroStrategy, logging into enterprise systems, unlocking devices, validating personal identity and opening physical entryways with a gesture or tap. The app also sends push notifications, prompting users to unlock their workstations, log into a system or open a doorway. 

"Apple Watch is the ideal platform to replace the password, plastic card and metal key," said MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor in a statement. "By integrating Apple Watch, iPhone and Touch ID with enterprise applications, resources and business processes, Usher for Apple Watch brings a new level of convenience, capability, safety and security to the marketplace."

Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.

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