Like many geeks around the world, this afternoon I watched the live feeds coming from Apple’s WWDC keynote. I always like to be among the first to know about Apple’s latest and greatest official news. There were a lot of topics discussed ranging from the updated line of MacBooks, to the new Mountain Lion OS, to the new iOS 6. The MacBook product line refresh was pretty much as expected and in keeping with Apple’s history of making it better, smaller and faster. Mountain Lion is continuing the trend of bring the features of mobile operating systems to the desktop experience.
It was the iOS 6 announcements though that I was most interested in. There are tons of new features added to this updated package. For those of you who aren’t as geeky as I, iOS is the name of the base operating system for all of Apple’s touchscreen “I” devices (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad). They’ve brought a nice rewritten maps app. This one is written in house and abandons the Google Maps relationship that’s been around since the first launch of the iPhone. It includes 3D flyover images, built in turn-by-turn navigation, and real-time traffic data that is sourced from other local iOS users. They’ve added on to Siri. She now has access to more information, and understands more languages. Facebook is now fully integrated into the OS. There’s a new Passbook app to organize your boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty cards and similar into a digital wallet type of app. They made some long overdue additions to the Phone app that allows you to schedule “do not disturb” times. They also added the ability to decline a call with a text message saying you’ll call back after your meeting or similar canned messages. There’s improvements to the Mail and Safari apps as well.
But what is the feature that really has my attention? It’s a small feature they’ve buried into the Accessibility feature set called “Guided Access” It lets you restrict input on your iDevice to a specific screen area, or input type, or even lock out the home button. They’re billing this as a tool to make iPads more useful for use in special education environments where you need to keep the student on-task. I’m seeing this feature as a perfect way to use iPads as an inexpensive touchscreen option for control systems and similar devices in commercial environments. We’ve all seen the apps from the various equipment manufacturers that allow us to control a device or control system with the iPad. Crestron has Mobile Pro G, Extron has MediaLink and TouchLink for iPad, Yamaha hasStudioManager, and the list goes on. I’ve always regarded these apps as tools for technicians. The idea of letting the average end user navigate away from the control app is rather unsettling. Just think of how many support calls that’s going to generate. Now with this new feature, we can use a standardized piece of hardware, sell it as part of the integrated system, and lock it’s use to the specific application we’re intending it for. Voila! I now have a dedicated $500 wireless 9” touchpanel. Or even a 3.5” Touchpanel if using the iPod Touch. Add in one of the many third party mounting systems now on the market, and you can have an in-wall touchpanel for the same price.
I was just in the Apple Store yesterday and looking at all of the iPads that they had locked down with certain apps for retail usage. I was dreaming how I could use that same lock down functionality to dedicate an iPad to one of a myriad of other task specific uses. Now I can!