Why the boring iOS 9 is good news for IT

Very few of the changes affect IT strategy or tactical concerns, and only the new Notes app might cause issues

Why the boring iOS 9 is good news for IT
flickr/Sherman Geronimo-Tan

A little more than a week ago, Google unveiled the boring Android M, a combination of bug fixes and small enhancements to its mobile platform due for release likely in November. Yesterday, Apple unveiled the boring iOS 9, a combination of bug fixes and small to medium enhancements to its mobile platform due for release likely in October.

There's more to iOS 9 than there was to Google M, but very little of it will affect business users or IT's mobile apps or device management efforts.

In fact, about the only item in iOS 9 that could get business attention is the revamped Notes app, which will allow check lists, embedded image, embedded links, the ability to draw on them, and other rich features that will make this easy note-taker more compelling. There are tons of note-taking apps for iOS, but most are overly complex (like Microsoft OneNote), tied into a specific service (like Evernote), or unnecessary variations on Notes.

Notes syncs with Exchange, IMAP, and iCloud accounts, so users (and thus IT) will see some breakage in the richness of notes' content when synced in Exchange or IMAP due to differences among various note-taking clients, such as Microsoft Outlook. IT may also see increased use of note syncing to iOS devices as more users start taking advantage of the app.

One change in iOS 9 might make IT feel a little more secure: the requirement for newer iPhones and iPads to use a six-digit passcode, rather than four, as the minimum acceptable password to unlock the device and decrypt its contents. But any serious IT organization would require alphanumeric passwords already, and encourage the use of Touch ID on those newer devices because that makes it easier to use complex passwords.

iOS 9's new split-screen feature for the iPad Air 2, especially its picture-in-picture resizable view, got a lot of ahhs from the bloggers at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday, but Samsung and Microsoft have had split-screen views on tablets for a couple years now -- Samsung even had Multi Window, its poorly performing resizable windows. It's not like those tablets are widely used despite the split-screen advantage. This may be a convenience for some users, but not a game-changer.

A similar-scale change is the support for new shortcuts when using Bluetooth keyboards, to make typing more PC-like. Another is the ability to use the iPad screen as a trackpad in terms of navigation controls. They're nice but the kinds of general refinements you should expect over time.

Almost everything else announced for iOS 9 was very much focused on users in areas that have little direct business connection or IT impact, such as support for transit directions in Maps, Siri's ability to interact with app content via new APIs (similar to what Google has done with Google Now), and the expansion of Apple Pay and the renamed Wallet app (formerly called Passbook) to support loyalty cards and in-store credit cards.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan, also due this fall, is an even more limited update, with no real implication for business users or IT beyond the expanded Notes app. Likewise, the WatchOS 2.0 update for the Apple Watch due this fall focuses on usability enhancements and deeper integration with Apple's apps and APIs, keeping it aligned to the iPhone's changes. Again, it's what you'd expect.

WatchOS 2.0 also enables third-party independent Watch apps, meaning apps that don't need an iPhone version to be installed to work. Apple's own Activity and Workout apps are examples of such apps in WatchOS 1.0 that don't need an iPhone to work -- a capability now being extended to all developers.

iOS 9 will certainly be welcome by users, but it's nothing that IT needs to worry about either strategically (your iOS add and deployment plans won't be affected) or tactically (your security and management operations won't change). That is good news for IT.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.