A substantial proportion of the developed world lives a multi-device life. At a minimum, they make daily use of a desktop or laptop computer and a phone. Many also use tablets, and as wearables become more popular, we’ll see a rise in the number of people using more intimate form factors. Providing a cohesive experience across all devices is crucial if developers and businesses are to provide an optimal user experience.
In a previous keynote, Apple introduced a range of tools and services that recognize the importance of a seamless experience across devices. Continuity and Handoff will allow iOS and OS X users to use whichever device is most convenient to them and hand-off tasks between devices. They can start editing an email on their iPhone and finish on their MacBook. They’re able to answer calls and send texts from their Mac using a no-configuration integration of mobile OS and desktop OS.
Apple is leveraging its tight control over its ecosystem to provide these services, allowing devices to communicate directly with each other via WiFi and Bluetooth, with the cloud acting as an intermediary in many cases.
But the consumer space is far from the only area in which multi-device continuity is becoming essential. Consider health care: access to accurate, up-to-date information by several healthcare workers in multiple contexts is a core component of continuity of care, which has been shown to improve outcomes for patients. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, administrative staff, and others require actionable information at the point of health care delivery; whether that’s an office, the emergency room, the wards, or in a patient’s home.
Multi-device continuity isn’t a mere convenience. It affords ways of working and collaborating that can fundamentally change how we interact with data. A decade ago workers were tied to the office cubicle because the traditional desktop was the only way they could access and process the information necessary to do their job. But almost all work is enhanced by context dependent interaction with a specific environment. Managers are more efficient if they can both access the information they need and directly experience the context they are managing.
For example, a desktop computer with large monitors is ideal for creating architectural designs, but it’s far from the best device to use while managing construction staff on-site. Yet, information gathered while on-site may need to be fed back into the design process. Multi-device continuity allows for coherent action patterns that encompass all work contexts.
Successfully managing multi-device continuity in the health field and elsewhere would be enormously complex without the cloud—so complex as to be unfeasible. But with the cloud, it’s relatively straightforward to create applications that draw data from cloud storage and deliver it to devices in an appropriate format.
Whether applications are native or responsive web apps, all will be fundamentally dependent on an underlying Infrastructure as a Service platform.