Friday, June 15th, 2012

WWDC Wrap-Up: How Apple is Powering the Next Generation of Businesses

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More than two years ago, in the time after the announcement of the iPad but before the first one hit the shelves, I was an intern at Box, and I remember a conversation I had with our CEO Aaron Levie. Aaron insisted that the iPad would not only be a success, but also would be immensely valuable for businesses. I, on the other hand, was convinced that few people would buy them, and those would did would be Apple fanboys, not businesses. I told Aaron that it was silly to expend our valuable engineering resources building an iPad app.

Fortunately, Aaron didn’t change Box’s entire mobile strategy on the opinion of an intern. Unfortunately, I still have the taste of crow in my mouth from that one.

The success of the iPad, as well as the iPhone, was the reason we decided to spend WWDC this year talking to some of our mobile partners about how iOS has affected their businesses. The answer, in most cases, is an extreme one – without iOS these businesses wouldn’t exist.

More than anything, that’s what’s amazing about Apple – if you measure its success by the stock price, it’s one of the greatest companies of our time, but that’s only half the story. The other half is that they’ve created not just a platform on which to develop, but rather an entire industry.

The stats they offered this week are nothing short of astounding – in 2011, Apple paid out $2.5 billion to developers. There are 400 million people whose credit cards are registered with their accounts on the App Store. There are 650,000 apps for iOS. All of this because of devices that didn’t even exist five years ago.

Moreover, when Aaron said the iPad would be used in businesses, he was right on the money – that’s why we just invested in PlanGrid. They’re one of so many companies that simply wouldn’t exist without the iPad, which they’re using to create innovation in the historically stagnant construction industry. Ryan Sutton-Gee, PlanGrid’s CEO, sees the iPad as a tool to help save billions of dollars a year by eliminating physical blueprints, which are not only expensive to print, but also continue to float around construction sites even after they’re out of date, leading to costly mistakes that must be corrected.

PlanGrid eliminates that problem – no printing, and nothing but the most current blueprints in anyone’s hands. Of course, key to this is the form factor of the iPad – it’s portable, and thus usable in the field, has long battery life, and is perfect for consuming just this type of content.

Another place the iPad shines is in the hands of salespeople. Catalogues, brochures, and order forms are the blueprints of the sales world – stuck on paper and constantly outdated. That’s why NOUSguide has built a business off of replacing all of those things with iPad apps.

When their clients’ salespeople go into the field, they do so equipped with custom branded apps that offer not only the assurance that their information is up-to-date, but also a beautiful, sleek interface for potential customers to see. Again, this is something that’s only possible because the iPad allows for this kind of experience in the way that a laptop never could.

In fact, the iPad has changed so much of the way that we work that the old tools we use have to be adapted to fit it. That’s the story behind CloudOn, the app that brings Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader, along with cloud services like Box, to the iPad. It’s not just simply dragging those applications off of the computer and onto the iPad, though – CloudOn takes pains to make sure that the experience is one that’s just right for this device, which is key to its success.

Even with all of these examples of successful apps, it’s important to remember that Apple’s success has created more than just the opportunity to build a business in the App Store. It’s also created an entire secondary group of companies that enable the apps themselves.

One of these is Parse, whose platform enables developers to easily implement and scale features of their apps like data storage, user authentication and geolocation, which they would otherwise have to build themselves. Parse powers tens of thousands of apps, which is rather unbelievable given (and profoundest apologies for repeating myself, but it’s a point worth making twice), that there were exactly zero apps five years ago. Today, Parse is just one of many successful businesses that only exist because of the entire industry that Apple has created. That’s two layers of businesses that Apple’s success has enabled, all during the worst economic times of my life.

Of course, if what we’ve seen thus far is any indication, things will only continue to grow from here, and APIs like ours will enable that growth by letting developers tap into established companies to take advantage of their features instead of building out those features themselves.

Every day we see more apps leveraging Box for any number of reasons. In the last few weeks we’ve seen integrations from 5degrees, a mobile CRM tool, and LogMeIn for iPad, which enables remote access to computers (among many other features). Notability has added an app to app integration with our own mobile app, enabling users to easily and securely move content back and forth between the two.

Now that WWDC is over, we can all take some time to relax, take in all of the news, order our new MacBooks, and consider how much farther iOS will have advanced next year. That, and get ready for Google I/O :).

  • http://twitter.com/jebory Jeb Ory

    Thanks for the shout out, Alex. At 5Degrees, we’re excited to give our users the ability to easily add attachments–via links from their Box account–to the emails they are sending out. Now, mobile salespeople will be able to easily add proposals to their emails–no more putting things off until you get back to the office. Do it once, and do it right.