When Apple first introduced its iPhone and iPad, both consumers and the channel went mad, and the impact was immediate. People began bringing in their Apple devices (and soon tablets of other brands) to work, and asking that they be allowed to use them as a business productivity tool.
That spurred the growth in already hot segments such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), mobility, app creation, and mobile security amongst others.
So now that Apple is introducing the Apple Watch will it be a case of déjà vu for the channel? And how much will the new wearable device disrupt this space?
Analyst firm, Telsyte, predicts that around 300,000 Apple Watch units will be available in the first batch in Australia and it expects all units to sell out depending on how quickly Apple is able to fulfil the potential local shortage. It also foresees that figure will grow by at least 50 per cent this year on the back of the launch of the Apple Watch, and that the market will be worth more than $400 million by 2018.
“There’s a pent up demand for the Apple Watch and the market’s ready for this type of device. What’s interesting is that while the consumer hype is there, if you look at wearables for businesses, it’s been there for a while already – we’ve seen communication headsets, wearable cameras, etc. so there’s already a market for that,” Telsyte senior analyst, Rodney Gedda, said.
As such, the introduction of the Apple Watch and other smartwatches will just be a natural extension for businesses in terms of wearables. The next-generation of advanced technology will bring more devices into the workplace, and smartwatches will just be another dimension to what’s already there.
But Gedda said the market will get more exciting with the introduction of the Apple Watch, especially within the app space. He said smartwatches are just another avenue for businesses to create apps for the platform. Companies such as Salesforce.com have already announced business productivity tools for the Apple Watch, so the app space might further promote smartwatches to be used for business purposes.
“Simple things like dictating notes, health monitoring, location based services, and interaction with other devices can be used widely for different applications including payments, content sharing, or security. So for example, you can have companies using the Apple Watch to unlock doors and the possibilities are quite limitless.”
Another company that’s recently created a business app for the workforce is ShoreTel. The unified business communications solutions vendor announced it will soon extend its ShoreTel Mobility capabilities for the Apple Watch.
ShoreTel A/NZ managing director, Jamie Romanin, said apps for smartwatches will transform the app space as it’s another mobile device form factor to consider as a channel to connect users with business.
“To date, the attention has definitely been more on consumer apps, but beyond mobile UC capabilities, there are great opportunities for travel and expense management, CRM, timesheet and social media apps,” he said.
Romanin added smartwatch app development is an obvious area for business opportunities, but the biggest impact on the market will be the excitement and intense interest generated by the Apple Watch.
“For ShoreTel partners, the Apple Watch is a great visual example to demonstrate the power and benefits of UC for business. Given that up to 90 per cent of Australian businesses in the mid-market have not yet deployed UC, there is a massive opportunity for ShoreTel partners to use our Apple Watch app to capture their customers’ attention and speak to them about the benefits of UC,” he said.
But, of course, with any new BYOD device in the workforce comes the issue of security. Good Technology chief technology officer, Nicko van Someren, claimed smartwatches are probably not going to have a huge volume of information on them but they are likely to have the most important bits of information.
“Part of the contextual user experience is to ensure that valuable bits of business intelligence get to your watch even if you don't get see entire emails or grab copies of databases,” Someren said.
As such, the company has worked to extend its secure container technology out from smartphones and tablets to wearables, allowing IT organisations to have fine-grain control over which data can get to these devices and ultimately, to allow it to separately encrypt and protect that data.
Centrify chief marketing officer, Mark Weiner, agreed security is a key element for this trend and mentioned the growing smartwatch space is the reason behind Centrify’s solution for wearables.
The unified identity management company recently announced it has extended its security protection to the next generation of wearable devices by enabling multi-factor authentication and single sign-on features.
“We see a lot of interest from customers for this. Along with securing the apps, people will be able to manage their devices. That’s a logical extension from tablets, and mobile phones. They all need to be managed because all of them have company apps and confidential information on it,” he said.
As a result, businesses to prepare themselves for the smartwatch wave by creating policies and strategies around dealing with company data on these devices.
“A lot of businesses aren’t prepared for this just like they weren’t prepared for the BYOD to smartphone wave we’ve seen in the past. If anything, wearables will make it that bit harder because it’s difficult to detect,” Gedda said.
But the smartwatch space is something the local reseller channel can bank on as the growth in the Australian smartwatch market in 2015 is expected to open up a lot of opportunities in that space. They should look for avenues to partner with organisations that for example, develop applications or offer value added services like security.
“Every reseller play in the mobile device space can be applied to wearables including mobile device management, data security, data backup, application revisioning and application development. The opportunities are all there, it’s just a matter of getting the right APIs and the right way to distribute to an audience,” Gedda said.
Someren mentioned that although most smartwatches will primarily be consumer purchases rather than corporate buys initially, enterprises are going to need some specialised software in order to enable these devices to be used securely with enterprise data when they become popular in the workforce.
“At the hardware level the traditional enterprise channels will not be involved initially but we very much hope and expect that the channels are going to be involved in the delivery of that software. There is still very much a play for the channel in providing the software and the management," he said.
“We expect to have strong channel engagement both for the delivery of on-premise software deployments as well as managed service providers for such solutions.”
Weiner claimed this transition is positive for the channel because it’s going to drive end users and companies to new computing environments and incremental app sales. It also drives professional services and integration opportunities.
“There’s more platforms to run more apps and to do more business process and optimisation. So the channel can get into systems integration, or tying it in to other back-end resources. It opens up avenues for IT to drive business,” he added.