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Apple Watch Meets the Enterprise: The Next BYOD Challenge?

Malcolm Ross, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy, Appian
May 7, 2015

Having been using the Apple Watch now since launch day on April 24th, I'll simply say "Like." Since I've taken part in the Google Glass Explorer program and also dabbled with other wearables, this is a testament to the strength of the Apple Watch as a product offering. Apple Watch is the first wearable that will find a permanent place in my wardrobe.

But, I am very much a creature of the enterprise. My focus is on work productivity, security, efficiency, and all things business. So how will the Apple Watch really help me? What will be the Apple Watch impact on the corporate world?

Granted, Apple has made no attempt to market the Apple Watch as a device for the enterprise. But ever since the iPhone, Apple has had huge success penetrating the enterprise through its strong consumer brand. Originally in 2007, the iPhone was probably far from the best enterprise mobile device, but Apple successfully captured the interest of enterprise thought leaders, and as a result, has become a leading mobile platform for business.

The Apple Watch certainly can take a similar path, but as a wearable it has a different set of pros and cons.


    • Apple brilliantly made the Apple Watch an extension of the iPhone.

As an extension of the iPhone rather a stand-alone device, it is exceedingly easy for employees to start pairing up the Apple Watch with their already corporate-approved iPhones. Unless security managers lock out the Apple Watch app on the iPhone, there is little stopping the Apple Watch from penetrating the corporate world.

    • Apple Watch is great for getting quick information while on the go.

The promise of wearables has always been to make information more accessible on the go. Apple Watch delivers on this with an intuitive UI and un-obstructive form factor.

    • Apple Watch is excellent for notifications.

Like many enterprise workers, I get tons of emails and messages throughout the day, but only 10% really require my immediate attention. And, like most people, I have at least some compulsion to check my device when I feel that iPhone buzz in my pocket. Apple Watch is great at satisfying my need to stay on top of messages, while also making it easier and faster to dismiss the noise.

    • Apple Watch surprised me with the usefulness of maps and navigation.

I thought I would never use the navigation feature on Apple Watch, given the strong navigation features on my iPhone. But, the subtle wrist tap while driving is far more intuitive for telling me when to turn and far safer than taking my eyes off the road to view the map on my iPhone. I didn't expect it, but this is among one of my favorite features so far.

    • Apple Watch battery life is great.

My previous experience with Google Glass and other wearables left me thinking wearables would never be able to deliver powerful applications and all-day battery life. Apple Watch surprised and certainly delivered in that regard.


    • Apple Watch is a total luxury for 99% of the workforce.

While Apple Watch is great at extending the usefulness of the iPhone, few really need both the iPhone and an Apple Watch for their job. I could see some highly mobile (like healthcare workers) benefiting from the form factor and notifications, but the Apple Watch is perpetually reliant on a larger device for more meaningful work.

    • Apple Watch is awful at capturing structured information.

Sure, Siri is there to capture a quick dictation, but workers require more structured information capture, e.g., forms. The small size of the Apple Watch makes capturing information in structured fields difficult.

    • Apple Watch is a big security unknown.

Although Apple Watch is an extension of the iPhone, it does provide 8GB of local storage. There is just not much information available about the overall security of that local data. For iOS devices, enterprises can purchase Mobile Device Management (MDM) software to create highly encrypted local data stores. The same does not exist for content on the Apple Watch.

So do enterprise IT professionals need to plan a new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) surge for the Apple Watch?

Yes...and no.

Because Apple Watch is a seamless extension of the iPhone, it is very easy for an employee to buy an Apple Watch and pair it up with a corporate approved iPhone. This immediately presents a challenge for enterprise IT to support these devices. Additionally, it means employees might find new and imaginative use cases for the device. In turn, a proper analysis of the impact on corporate data security on Apple Watch devices needs to be considered.

IT pros can expect to see a proliferation of these devices in a similar fashion to the iPhone in 2007. Early adopters and technically inclined executives will buy their own and engage with their IT organization to make it work. But, given Apple Watch's more limited usefulness, proliferation could stop there.

Where some organizations have come to rely on iPhones, iPads, and other mobile platforms for core business operations, the same will not occur for the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch's small form factor inherently limits the productivity of the device. For now, it will fill a very small niche in the enterprise, where notifying mobile workers with real-time information is important.

Overall, kudos to Apple for making the best effort yet to bring wearables to the masses. Appian perpetually watches the wearables market closely, so our mobile platform is always ready when new devices go mainstream. Nowadays, that seems closer than ever.

Malcolm Ross, VP, Product