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The Enterprise Value of the Apple Watch

With Apple Watch sales underway, many No Jitter readers are likely wondering whether you can make an enterprise use case for the wearable. And while I am an Android fan myself (and am thus required to swear allegiance to Google and regularly defame Apple to my friends), after speaking with Ed Wright, director of product management at ShoreTel, even I have to admit I can see an enterprise value proposition. However, I have a few stipulations.

ShoreTel is among the first enterprise communications companies I've spoken to that is taking on the Apple Watch to make its move into the wearables market, which as No Jitter mobility blogger Michael Finneran, president of dBrn Associates, notes in today's post, has had few success stories. It plans on extending the ShoreTel Mobility Client with an Apple Watch application, set to release in beta on April 24 alongside in-store availability of the Watch.

As Wright explained, for a bit of context, the ShoreTel Mobility Client is intended to extend unified communications abilities to mobile devices, enabling functionality like call control, enterprise presence, instant messaging, mid-call dialing, and visual voicemail to carry over to mobile environments. Its intent is countering the disconnect between mobile devices and the enterprise.

As Wright readily admitted, ShoreTel isn't alone in that goal. "I think you'll find that most of my competitors have kind of a similar approach, which is to push a lot of stuff out to the mobile device to make those users more connected to the enterprise," he said.

However, ShoreTel is separating itself from the pack by moving quickly to release an enterprise app for the Apple Watch.

ShoreTel has been following the wearables market for quite some time now, Wright said. Anticipating the launch of the Watch, now seemed like the appropriate time for the company to enter the market. About 60% of ShoreTel Mobility users are iOS users, with the majority of the rest using Android. But as Wright noted, the Android wearables market is somewhat fragmented right now, while Apple has established a tight ecosystem of its various devices.

"This was a good opportunity for us to put a new tool in the hands of the majority of our Mobility users," Wright said. But trying to replicate all the Mobility Client capabilities on a wearable is a losing game, he added.

"If you think about the way that the Watch is going to be used in business environments, and by extension in consumer environments, I think the applications that are going to be really successful on the Watch are the applications that can distill complexity down to a really simple environment," Wright explained. If the app is too complex, it becomes too cumbersome to use. "At a certain point the user is going to be inclined to discard the interaction with the Watch and move to the mobile devices that the Watch is attached to."

You don't want to have this heavy integration with a bunch of nested menus and things like that, Wright said. All you need are the essentials, which for the enterprise comes down to what users need to know that allow them to keep the phone in their pocket.

Toward that end, ShoreTel provides highly customizable call routing and management features it said are intended to allow users to get the best use from the Watch application. For example, users can set controls so that calls from a specific person are only allowed through to the Watch under certain conditions.

If I don't want, let's call him Billy, to be able to reach me unless he is calling from his mobile number in the time period of noon to 2 p.m., only when my presence indicator is set to available, I can do that. I can set it so that my Watch will only light up with a notification if certain conditions are met, and if Billy calls at a time that does not meet those conditions the app will send him directly to voicemail. By establishing such specific settings, users should be able to maximize use of the Watch and their productivity. Of course, this requires a certain awareness and level of organization on the part of the user, but I have faith enough in humanity that users can make this happen.

ShoreTel's move to extend its Mobility Client to the Watch is interesting to me and seems to take into account many unique factors related to the way people interact with different devices. But, it is really the first enterprise use case for the Watch that I have come across thus far. What other enterprise use cases exist? Could the Apple Watch drive adoption of mobile UC? Share your observations in the comments, and let's start a discussion.

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