Let’s talk gadgets! (As EUC folks, it’s part of our jobs.)

The next hot gadget could be the next essential enterprise tool, security concern, or a non-event.

I’ve been thinking a lot about consumer gadgets lately, as a lot’s been going on: the iPhone 8 and iPhone X were announced; smartphone-based augmented reality has arrived; I’m carrying around a Samsung Galaxy Note8 in addition to my iPhone; and I was just at the Samsung Developer Conference.

Of course, this is an enterprise IT-oriented blog, but the whole BYOD and consumerization wave a few years back taught us that it’s important to keep up to date with the latest gadgets and muse on them from time to time. So I’m going to do just that and see what enterprise conclusions I can draw.

First up, smartwatches: I’m still using my original Apple Watch, now 2½ years old, for many of the same use cases as previously: notifications, controlling music playback, tracking my runs, and occasionally responding to messages. I’d like to upgrade to one with a GPS, though personally I don’t feel a need for LTE—I don’t need to call people while I’m on a run.

Enterprise angle: After all this time I’ve never heard of anybody having any security issues. Knock on wood, but I think the chances of a new device or form factor catching us off guard are pretty low.

Also, it’s interesting to look at Google Glass and similar products, which went nowhere in the consumer space (the most recent example being Snapchat Spectacles), and instead re-emerged in the enterprise.

Next, headphones: I thought the iPhone 7 ditching the headphone jack was stupid, but it did prompt me to finally get a set of cheap BlueTooth earbuds (these ones) and let me say, they’ve changed my life! I sure don’t miss untangling cords or getting them caught on somebody’s backpack on the subway, plus I also like that I can quickly take them out of my ears and attach them around my neck with the built-in magnets. To my taste, the AirPod controls were too finicky, and they don’t fit me well, but I can see why they’re so popular (seriously, they’re everywhere in San Francisco).

Is there an enterprise angle here? Probably not? If you’ve can think of one, let us know in the comments.

On to phones: As an mobility blogger, people sometimes ask me—occasionally with an accusatory tone—why they should pay so much for a new phone. This is probably better left to a full-time gadget blog, but my thoughts are that (A) I agree with the analysis that Apple probably wanted to make a higher-end phone in lower numbers so they could incorporate technologies that they wouldn’t be able to do at the enormous scale of the regular iPhone; and (B) can you believe how powerful phones are these days?!? There are a lot of interesting things going on with the silicon, cameras, and having an Xbox Kinect built-in.

Enterprise angle: Managed mobility providers say that many people tend to “lose” or “accidentally” break their phones right around upgrade season; I like to make the point that corporate devices aren’t just an IT issue—they’re also an HR benefits issue, which means we need to consider a lot of emotions when making policies about BYOD or corporate-liable devices.

When it comes to this season’s devices, Apple has made an effort to explain the security implications of FaceID in the iPhone X, and it turns out that there are a lot of similarities to TouchID. (Support page | Security white paper.) On the Samsung side I’ve enjoyed my time working with the Galaxy S8, Note8, and I found the DeX desktop mode to be pretty good, but more important is that we’ve seen pretty wide acceptance and usage of the Knox features.

Lastly, let’s talk digital assistants. These have been discussed ad nauseum; personally I’m frustrated that I can’t make more complex queries. For example, the other day I was finishing up a trip in a ZipCar, and I needed to go into my Gmail account to find the address to return it, enter the address into a map, and read the instructions for entering the parking garage. Individually, these are tasks that digital assistants are capable of, but collectively and across the barriers of third-party apps, it wasn’t possible to do this with Siri. Still, I appreciate being able to use “Hey Siri” for things like timers and weather reports. So for now, I think of this domain as “so close, yet so far.” Samsung Bixby is touting its ability to do more complex things, so it’s time for some more testing.

Enterprise angle: While it’s easy to imagine data leakage via digital assistants, I’m actually surprised that I haven’t really heard this fear come up. (There are ways to restrict Siri.)

As many have noted, digital assistants face the challenge that they’re often portrayed as “you can ask it anything,” but really, you can’t. (Benedict Evans has a couple of great posts about this.) While this may frustrate consumers, it will be less of a problem in the enterprise, where the domain is narrower—for example, see Gabe’s article about Lakeside Software’s Ask SysTrack feature, or when Andre Leibovici made an Alexa skill for Nutanix.

Again, I think all of us in the EUC space need to keep on top of these consumer tech trends, even if not all of them seem to have immediate enterprise implications. (This is why I check sites like Techmeme.com every day.) I’ve written before that I think that today there’s less chance of being caught off guard like some were with the initial wave of consumerization, but either way, it’s good (and fun) to be prepared.

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@JackMadden -- interested in your take on Apple's claim: 'there is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that someone would be able to open your phone using Face ID (compared to 1 in 50,000 chance of having the same fingerprint as you.)'

Do you think the pros of Face ID outweigh the cons? Security implications?