A year of the Apple Watch: Its effect (or non-effect) on EUC, and what will happen next

The Apple Watch has been around a year, but so far it hasn’t been a huge change for EUC like when the iPhone came along. So what will the next huge change be? Internet of Things?

The Apple Watch has been around for about a year. It’s been by far the most successful smartwatch, but has it had a huge effect on enterprise end user computing yet?

So far, no.

Furthermore, the Apple Watch may still be a long way from its full potential, but it’s not going to have a huge effect in the future, either.

One reason is that smartwatches are mostly just accessories compared to smartphones. Everybody has (or is going to have) a smartphone, but not everybody’s going to have another device strapped somewhere else on their body. And from a more practical standpoint, today most watches and wearables are dependent on a host smartphone for much of their functionality (including management and security) anyway.

The most important reason why the Apple Watch hasn’t precipitated a huge change is that—from an enterprise EUC perspective—we already went through a revolution when iPhones and Android came along in the first place. They forced us to stop thinking just in terms of the Windows desktop, and start thinking about a multi-device, multi-OS environment.

Cloud apps and SaaS are another important and intertwined part of this shift. For example, Dropbox came along and made us realize that network file servers just aren’t going to cut it anymore.

The mobile device and cloud app shift took us off guard at times: We fretted about BYOD and consumerization of IT and FUIT, and there was a lot of very understandable stress and strife.

But we can deal with all this now. We have EMM for mobile devices and apps; we have identity management for cloud apps; enterprise file sync and share is everywhere; and enterprise mobile apps are spreading.

So the Apple Watch? Not that big of a deal compared to smartphones and SaaS. From the EUC perspective, it’s an incremental.

Now this isn’t to say that the Apple Watch and other wearables aren’t important. They already have a presence in the enterprise, and it will get bigger. There are some good use cases today (I get my alerts on my wrist, you can respond to MfA notifications, etc.) and surely there will be many more applications that use wearables. But since we already had the iPhone and Android come along and start a revolution in how we think about EUC, the change and disruption from wearables just won’t be the same order of magnitude.

What about virtual reality?

That covers watches, but over the last few months you’ve probably noticed a lot of action around virtual reality and augmented reality. Will that be like the iPhone and revolutionize EUC?

There are a lot of interesting questions about VR/AR, and Andreessen Horowitz analyst Benedict Evans outlined some of them in a blog post: What will the hardware look like? How prevalent will it be? What content will be consumed?

But from the enterprise EUC perspective, VR/AR look a lot like watches and wearables: VR/AR devices will be “extra” devices on top of smartphones and PCs, and there won’t be as many because not everybody will have one. (Or VR/AR will just be a feature of other devices.)

Even though VR/AR won’t have the same big effect on EUC as modern smartphones, there will still be plenty of interesting enterprise use cases. (Also, you can count on the EMM vendors figuring out ways to managed and secure these things once they do start to become meaningful in the enterprise.)

What does all this mean?

If you can solve for mobile devices and the cloud apps in enterprise EUC, then congratulations, solving for the Apple Watch (and VR/AR) will be far easier! Again, these more recent devices just don’t represent the same huge change because smartphones and cloud apps already forced a revolution.

Is the Internet of Things the next EUC revolution?

What’s next? How about the Internet of Things? In this case we’re all still working out the answers. We can definitely say that like wearables and VR/AR, there will be plenty of great new applications and business use cases.

For IT, IoT means a massive increase in endpoints to manage and secure. If we were concerned about smartphones and tablets, imagine what happens when there are thousands or millions of sensors and “things” with enterprise data on them.

So far we haven't covered IoT very much at BrianMadden.com—you can read Gabe's comments about IoT and Citrix's acquizition of Octoblu here and here, but in general we’re still feeling our way around and figuring out exactly how it will affect the EUC space. Is it going to be a massive revolution (read: headache)? Will it all fall on EUC folks to deal with? Or more on networking or application folks? Or will it be more like the cloud, where it’s not one single technology, rather an overall concept that affects all of us, but in many different ways?

One thing that’s becoming clear is that since IoT “things” have a lot in common with the “devices” in MDM, there’s an obvious new line of business for EMM and endpoint management vendors. (For example last year at Connect, AirWatch presented a case study about using some of their IoT technology to manage Coca-Cola Freestyle vending machines.)

How does this play out? We’ll stay tuned. (Personally I’m looking forward to Shawn Bass’s upcoming BriForum session: “IoT: Can we move past the ‘Internet of Toys’ to the ‘Internet of Things,’ please?”) Hopefully as we move towards IoT, there won’t be as much panic as there was around BYOD iPhones and Dropbox.

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