Building on the iPhone’s popularity for workers in a bring-your-own-device world, the Apple Watch is equipped with apps squarely aimed at the business world. Monday’s Apple Watch announcement showcased several apps ready for use at work or play, but Apple’s use of a suite of tools from cloud-based CRM provider Salesforce show a real commitment to using the Apple Watch for work. Three apps, also announced Monday (March 9), include Salesforce1 for Apple Watch, Salesforce Analytics for Apple Watch, and the developer pack. They will be free for current users of Salesforce software and are companions to the company’s existing business-focused mobile apps for improving customer experience.
Lindsey Irvine, Salesforce’s global director of strategic partnerships and business development, told The Wall Street Journal that while there are challenges, “work [scenarios] are driving wearables into the employee universe.” Among these challenges, Irvine said, is figuring out how to customize these business solutions for a much smaller screen.
Salesforce1 for Apple Watch distills the mobile app’s experience to notifications. The watch version displays personalized notifications including procurement approvals, too-long customer wait times, or the achievement of business goals. The company announced it would be available for Apple Watch in the third quarter of this year.
The second business user-focused app is all about data. Salesforce Analytics for Apple Watch leverages data from multiple sources (even those outside of Saleforce) to build visual performance reports with the capability to drill down to original datasets right from the Apple Watch.
The app, which should be available in time for the arrival of the Apple Watch in stores this April, will also respond to voice commands using Siri, as well as use the recently introduced iOS 8 feature, Handoff, so users can seamlessly move from the watch to their iPhone to a MacBook.
But Salesforce isn’t the only application developer thrusting Apple Watch into the office. Other apps listed in the Apple App Store designed for work include Invoice2go, a time-tracking program that uses the smartwatch’s geo-locating function; BetterWorks, a tool for employee goal-setting; and Mayo Clinic Synthesis, a scheduling tool for doctors.
Apple’s above-mentioned iOS 8 Handoff feature suggests that the rise of workplace wearables does not signal the abandonment of the smartphone. During its product announcement event, Apple said it envisions the watch handling quick interactions, leaving smartphones or laptops necessary for more complex tasks. Plus, getting the most out of the Apple Watch requires an iPhone. After lagging behind Google, Apple has shed the perception of the iPhone as consumer-only and embraced the bring-your-own-device revolution to make its smartphone today’s dominant device in the workforce. With the release of the iPhone 6, Apple surpassed Google’s Android ecosystem as the smartphone of choice for business, research shows. According to Good Technology’s Mobility Index Report, almost three-quarters of devices activated in the fourth quarter of 2014 for enterprise use ran the iOS ecosystem, up 3 percent from the third quarter. The iPhone 6 alone made up 30 percent of newly activated devices.
The number suggests Apple’s recent efforts to complement the workplace are working. Last year, Apple announced a partnership with IBM to introduce a series of industry-specific, customizable cloud-based apps for corporations. Experts say that because Apple products hold the perception of being more secure than rival devices, corporations may be more willing to adopt the Apple Watch even if they are concerned about sharing corporate information on yet another device. Further, industry insiders say, the evolution of the mobile workforce means employees will depend more on mobile technology to complete their corporate tasks.
The Apple Watch is ready for business, but the larger unknown is if business is ready for wearable technology. The end of Google Glass was a high-profile exit from the segment, but some experts are confident that there remains plenty of opportunity in the B2B sector for such technology to take off. Research from Forrester found that 68 percent of companies think wearables are a priority for their workplaces.
Historically, the B2B sector has not been an early adopter of technology, but this mentality is showing signs of change with the proliferation of the Internet of Things and the cloud. The pairing of the Apple Watch and Salesforce illustrates one way wearables could overcome tech aversion: data. Actionable, real-time data, freed from the constraints of an office, literally at hand.
Still only in its infancy, wearable technology will need time to tell whether it can revolutionize how businesses get things done. One thing is clear, however: Apple wants to be at the front of the pack if and when wearables take off in the corporate environment.