WE’RE HEARING with all the kerfuffle about Apple’s release of a new iPhone last week, the commercial unveiling of its new operating platform for mobile devices seemed like a quiet affair.
But it’s the new iOS 7 platform that may have the biggest impact on how people use their iPhones and iPads for business. Apple made a point of highlighting some of the new enterprise management features, and so far the reviews from “bring your own device” enthusiasts are positive.
Christian Kane, a Forrester analyst, wrote in a report that the new operating platform will offer a number of management options for any business applications installed on an employee’s personal device.
“While it’s not clear yet how much functionality Apple will offer here initially, it’s safe to assume we’ll see better application push/removal options, preconfiguration and modeling,” he said.
Previously, corporate mobile device management required companies to manually activate and configure applications for each device an employee or contractor used for business applications. That required a back and forth between employee devices and their company’s IT department. Now, iOS 7 makes it easier for companies to install and configure apps en masse.
Overall, Kane said the update to the iOS platform allows MDM vendors to better manage business applications and data that reside on employee’s device. Data security is one of the biggest challenges facing corporations that embrace BYOD, especially in the financial services arena where lenders have to comply with strict rules about access to nonpublic consumer information.
The enhancements also will make it easier for IT departments or MDM vendors to enroll personal devices in an enterprise’s BYOD program, Kane said, saving a lot of time boarding devices. The upgrade gives companies more control over which apps on a user’s device can have access to corporate files. That means they can block users from opening files with Dropbox, for instance.
That makes it easier to keep work and personal content on mobile devices separate. Kane said the new release yields “improved app and data security for all applications.”
Overall, Kane concludes that iOS “brings a huge number of improvements and standards for managing applications on iPhones and iPads and makes the setup and configuration process a lot simpler.”
Josh Lambert, a product manager and liaison to Apple with Fiberlink, agreed that the iOS enhancements improve MDM options for companies that let employees use Apple devices for work. He told me that iOS 7 appears to be a larger release for both work and personal functionality than previous upgrades to the operating system. He predicts the enterprise enhancements should go over well with businesses as Apple continues to make its devices more and more manageable. (Fiberlink, which provides the MaaS360 MDM service, recently held a webinar to discuss the changes in Apple’s new operating system.)
One of the biggest improvements for companies is that they can now purchase and manage copies of mobile apps centrally, rather than having the users purchase the apps individually.
It also allows the company to keep the licensing codes for business apps, so that they don’t have to purchase new copies when employees leave the company. The improved licensing model should encourage programmers to develop more business apps for Apple devices, he said. And he’s not the only one predicting that the new operating system could spark a “golden age” for app development.
On the security front, Apple has introduced a controversial fingerprint identification feature. Lambert said the simple, four-digit PIN often used for access to apps and devices is easily hacked.
“Apple certainly has had a focus on this for a long time. They have improved their default encryption,” he told me. “You can get away from having these pass codes, and in most cases a fairly insecure pass code, and move toward a finger print system.”
The new release also makes it easier to erect walls around enterprise applications and accounts so that data doesn’t move toward the personal side of an employee’s device, blocking unintended data leakage.
Lambert predicts that the improvements made by Apple will encourage developers of Android applications to improve their MDM capabilities as well.
Apple has also made it easier for business apps to be running in the background while the user is doing something else on the device, enabling easier multitasking. It also improves the potential for geo-coding to be used, so that certain apps or features could be enabled only when an employee is in the office, for instance.
“There are new capabilities for app developers to tap into on the iOS 7,” Lambert said.
Ted Cornwell has covered the mortgage markets since 1990. He is a former editor of both Mortgage Servicing News and Mortgage Technology.