This month Apple unveiled a more powerful iPad, operating system upgrades, and the new HomePod AI speaker.
Apple made several big announcements regarding the future of its services and devices at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Along with making some compelling software improvements, Apple also announced updates to its product line.
Here’s what small business owners need to know about Apple’s announcements:
iOS 11 and iPad
By far the most relevant announcement for small business owners are related to the iPad.
The forthcoming iOS 11 will bring many improvements to Apple’s mobile products. Among other fixes, the new operating system will finally address a common criticism of the iPad: Namely, that the tablet just isn’t competent enough to be used as a standalone/primary computer.
First, the iPad now has a mature file system. In a similar manner to using the Mac’s “Finder” window, users will be able to find all of their documents in a single “Files” app. The app is able to locate documents in other apps and it’s compatible with Google Drive, Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Dropbox, and other popular cloud-based storage platforms.
The iPad is also getting an upgraded Dock that can hold far more apps, also reminiscent of the Mac. This adds to other multitasking features, like the ability to drag and drop images and other elements from one split screen to the other.
The “Pro” tablet will receive several spec upgrades that should make using the Apple Pencil a more fluid experience, and using the camera to instantly scan documents and mark them up using the Pencil—without the use of third party apps—could come in handy.
One more notable change that applies to both the iPhone and iPad relates to Messages. Users will now be able to securely send money to each other using Apple Pay directly in the messaging app. This could make services like Square Cash or Venmo unnecessary.
The Apple Watch software will see several welcomed advances. As can be expected, features were added to the workout app, and a few new watch faces have been added to the collection. However, the most notable change is the new Siri-powered watch face.
Apple’s Siri was one of the first mainstream virtual assistants, present across all of their devices. But since its introduction, companies like Google and Amazon have outpaced it when it comes to providing relevant information to users. This new Apple Watch face aims to change that.
The face makes Siri immediately available to the wearer by displaying a glowing sphere of light. The creepiness factor is downplayed by its pretty light show. Right beneath the time, Siri will display on the watch the most relevant information based on what she has learned about your habits.
Ultimately, the watch face itself isn’t particularly impressive, but it does show that Apple is getting serious about improving its artificial intelligence. And if an improved Siri is coming then it definitely paves the way for another new product.
This was one of the most anticipated pieces of news going into the conference. It was rumored that Apple was looking to get into the home speaker space, and this product was their first foray into that market.
In truth, the HomePod is not much more than a high-quality audio speaker, and it’s clearly being marketed as such. And though early impressions of the device are positive, there’s not much to speak about when thinking of it as just another speaker.
But it’s not just another speaker. This device connects with Siri, and similarly to Amazon’s Echo and Google Home there are likely to be many ways to incorporate this device into your daily life, even if Apple isn’t stating that just yet.
This is potentially another example of artificial intelligence (AI) making its way into the mainstream. And for small business owners who are looking for ways to implement AI into his or her daily operations, the HomePod may be an interesting alternative for those wishing to stay in the Apple ecosystem.
Apple also announced hardware updates to its Mac and iPad lineups that ship today. iOS 11 and watchOS 4 will be available as free upgrades this fall, while the HomePod will come to market in December.