Apple reserves its Freeform digital whiteboard for its users

Expected later this year, Apple’s digital whiteboard application will only be available for iOS, iPad OS and Mac OS devices. A situation that could affect its chances of competing with other offers on the market.

Unveiled at the WWDC 2022 developer conference (June 6 to 10), Apple’s digital whiteboard application aims to promote real-time collaboration between users. Strong point of the keynote of the leaders of Apple, the tool baptized Freeform is intended as much for the planning of projects as for the sessions of brainstorming. However, Freeform’s limitation to only Apple devices could prevent the tool from taking hold in the enterprise, as was the case with Apple’s FaceTime video application which, unlike Zoom and Microsoft Teams, failed to reach a large audience during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After opening Freeform from FaceTime, users can access a whiteboard space to take notes, draw (Apple Pencil is supported), and share content like videos and PDFs. All participants can see the mouse cursors and show in real time what they are doing. It is also possible to click on a user’s icon to quickly see what they are working on, which can be useful when tables are overflowing with information.

Google, Zoom and Box also in the dance

Expected later this year, Apple’s real-time collaboration tool will compete with many collaborative whiteboard apps for the workplace. This is the case of Mural and Miro, two very popular autonomous whiteboard applications, or the Whiteboard application relaunched by Microsoft last year. Google, Zoom, ClickUp and Box are also some of the other software vendors that have recently integrated whiteboards into their products.

“With support for real-time and asynchronous collaboration, whiteboard tools are playing an increasingly important role in enabling teams to innovate, brainstorm and co-create when they can’t. not be together, as evidenced by the proliferation of startups like Miro,” said Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at CCS Insight. “By leveraging the group messaging features of iOS/iPadOS/iMacOS and giving users the ability to invite entire groups to collaborate, Apple seeks to make it smoother to switch between apps and improve thus the adoption of its new tools,” added the analyst.

A limitation similar to iWork

“While Freeform is comparable in functionality to other digital whiteboard tools on the market, the fact that the app is only available on Apple devices limits its reach,” said Irwin Lazar, president and principal analyst at Metrigy. “This app will no doubt be useful for individuals or small teams who all use Apple’s operating system, but it may not have the appeal of more robust tools supported by both iOS, Mac and Windows,” Lazar added.

An opinion shared by Angela Ashenden, but up to a certain point. “Yes, all employees need to be Apple users, but that’s the same for all iWork apps and we always see in CCS Insight surveys that these tools are adopted by around 5-6% of all employees,” she added. Freeform will be available on iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and MacOS Ventura upon release.

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