Three Ways Apple Accidently Changed Business Communications

Jun 30, 2017

There has been a lot of coverage about the major milestone in personal communications: the tenth anniversary of the first shipments of the original iPhone. Bloggers and journalists far and wide have been recounting their first experience with the device that would change everything. What is not being talked about as much, however, is the impact that smart devices have had on our daily work lives. While the full impact is significant, including how we pay for things, social media and how we interact, and even how we collaborate, here are three ways that I believe that Apple changed the business world, even if they didn’t mean to:

Bring Your Own Device: In 2007, only the nerdiest of the nerds actually bought their own smartphones. (Confession: I was one of those, rocking a Palm Treo 750 around the time the iPhone was announced). They were expensive, often cumbersome to use, and the wireless carriers charged a premium for megabytes of woefully slow data plans. In other words, they were not for the faint of heart, even less so if you were footing the bill yourself. Instead, corporate-issued Blackberries were the order of the day, granted only to those employees whose rank or job role justified such an expenditure.

The iPhone turned this paradigm upside down. It was the device that consumers actually wanted to use.  The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement ultimately gained momentum because these newly minted iPhone users started asking the question “Why do I have this amazing communication device in one hand and a corporate-issued Blackberry in the other?” Ten years later, access to business communications and collaboration tools on our personal devices is the rule, not the exception.

User Experience: Above everything else, the biggest lesson that Apple taught the world with the iPhone was that the user experience really does matter. As I mentioned above, those of us who were mobile before mobile was cool rarely have fond memories of using pre-iPhone smartphones. Tiny screens, complicated user interfaces, or worse yet, text-based interfaces reminiscent of 1980’s PCs. The iPhone brought to the masses a device that was friendly and frankly fun to use. As a result, it raised the bar for not only other mobile device makers, but all software in general.

Unified communications (UC) clients are the perfect example of how modern design and the impact of the iPhone’s user experience has impacted business communications. Before the iPhone, most desktop softphones were written as virtual replicas of a user’s deskphone, to the point of being able to use your mouse to click on a dialpad on your screen. Today, most UC vendors have taken a mobile-first approach to design and development, and most desktop clients look more like their mobile counterparts than the deskphones of old.

The Perils of Work/Life Balance: Of course, not everything that the iPhone has wrought upon the world has been positive. Before the iPhone, BYOD and the onslaught of connected devices, most of us disconnected from our work at the end of each workday. Unless you were on pager duty, logging off of your work computer meant that emails, voice mails, and all business communications would simply have to wait until the next morning. Today, most of us likely catching ourselves glancing at work communications constantly, including at the dinner table and over the weekend, deciding whether to respond or not. Smartphones, have on one hand, democratized the mobile experience, enabling a whole generation of knowledge workers to break out of cubicles, letting work become a thing you do, not a place you go. At the same time, these devices have also become digital leashes, raising the expectation of always being connected. In this regard, it is little wonder that in 2017 we are talking more about vacation embargoes and the need to unplug.



Michael Brandenburg


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