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Five takeaways from Apple's WWDC 10 for mobile enterprises

We already knew about some of the enterprise benefits that iPhone OS 4 will deliver. But Apple announced five other things at its WWDC today of interest to mobile enterprises.

We already knew some of the goodies that iPhone OS 4 would deliver to enterprises: multitasking, unified e-mail inbox, SSL VPN, and more. etc. At the WorldWide Developer Conference today, Steve Jobs said there are 100 new features and 1,500 new APIs for developers, but didn't expand on that.

We'll cover that as more details on those emerge. In the meantime, let's cover some of the new things that Jobs did unveil at WWDC, and their implications for mobile enterprises.

1. iBooks e-reader app to support PDFs. Politically, this could help Apple rebut charges around the closedness of its platform, especially since PDF, though now an open standard, was created by Adobe Systems, which also makes the Flash format rejected by Apple. iBooks now lets you store and read PDFs. That's important because PDF is the standard among businesses and government agencies for electronic forms. Unfortunately, this version of iBooks doesn't go all the way and let you edit PDFs, i.e. actually fill out the forms. Still, a good first step.

2. eBay app on iPhone on track for up to $2 billion sales this year. On m-commerce, most attention has been paid towards the App Store or the coming iAds. But the amount of buying and selling on eBay due to the iPhone is actually growing much faster: $600 million in 2009, its first year, and between $1.5 billion to $2 billion this year. Jobs' reaction? "We should all be this successful." After all, eBay's gross revenue will soon top Apple's $1.43 billion gross revenue from the App Store in the past two years - if it hasn't already. For businesses who thought iPhone commerce-related opportunities were limited to farming games or fancy animated ads, think again.

3. Improvements to iPhone 4's camera and microphone. Like most cameraphones, the iPhone is mediocre both in resolution and its low-light performance. The new iPhone 4 addresses this by adding an LED flash to the existing rear-facing camera, boosting its resolution to 5 megapixels from 3 megapixels, while keeping pixel size the same. In video mode, the rear camera can shoot 720p HD video at 30 frames per second with a new illuminated sensor useful in the dark. The new iPhone also comes with a second microphone to help cancel noise. These should all help make the iPhone 4 much more useful as a field service mobility tool.

iPhone 4 also adds a front-side camera that will work with the updated iOS 4's new FaceTime app to deliver video chat/conferencing. While this could deliver the first true mobile videophone as we've seen in countless sci-fi movies, the reality is that this will probably be a niche use. We are making far fewer voice calls today; adding video won't counteract this trend. Also, FaceTime is restricted to Wi-Fi only for now. For now, this looks like a killer app for only one industry.

4. The Retina Display. The new iPhone may not have the largest smartphone screen - its 3.5 inch-screen loses out to the HTC EVO's 4.3-inch display - but it will have the sharpest one. At 960x640, that is 614,400 pixels - 60% more than the EVO and four times more than the iPhone 3GS. The contrast ratio has been also been jacked up 4x to 800:1. Sounds great, though will those with aging eyes agree? On the other hand, the improved resolution turns the iPhone 4 into a full slideware-ready tool, meaning salesguys can now consider ditching their laptops.

5. However, battery life gains are modest. While 300 hours of standby time sounds impressive, the blessing and curse of the iPhone is that it is much more heavily used than other smartphones, making battery life while connected crucial. That is up only about 13% from the iPhone 3GS. Indeed, 3G connectivity remains nearly 25% shy of a full business day. That will mean continued problems for field service workers and others running always-need-to-be-connected apps.

Also posted at UberMobile at Sybase.com.


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