More granular IT controls give Apple iOS 7 new appeal in the enterprise -- where it will be the top smartphone OS until at least 2016, analysts say.
13 Favorite iOS, Android Apps
(click image for larger view)
Apple is known as a consumer-oriented company, but many of iOS 7's behind-the-scenes enhancements are aimed squarely at businesses. Thanks to new features that include more-granular IT controls and access to corporate content that is more convenient and secure, many experts project that iOS 7 not only will be an essential upgrade, but also the top smartphone OS in the enterprise through at least 2016.
The iOS architecture has always been fairly secure because it sandboxes apps, which prevents them from writing files to one another. For some enterprises and institutions, however, "fairly secure" isn't good enough.
"The bottom line is, Apple has a structure that works pretty well [but] it's not enriched with all the functionality that high-security environments want," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney in an interview.
Mobile device management (MDM) vendors have stepped in to fill gaps, and Apple has gradually given them more tools to work with. Dulaney said that from the enterprise's perspective, iOS 7 is the most substantive upgrade since iOS 4.
Apple still isn't allowing BlackBerry-like control. Having built its reputation around a tightly-controlled user experience, the company is unlikely to ever go this route. In fact, most of the enterprise features in iOS 7 can be used only with an MDM agent. Nonetheless, the new OS addresses many of IT's biggest complaints and should expand its already formidable presence in the workplace. Here are six reasons iOS 7 is an essential enterprise upgrade.
1. iOS 7 includes beefed-up security, and a better balance between personal and corporate data.
Companies already can connect iOS devices to VPNs, which securely connect end users to corporate servers. Unfortunately, doing so involves a brute-force method that enables the entire device. This approach needlessly chews through both battery life and bandwidth.
iOS 7 changes this by allowing IT managers to designate which apps are allowed to use the VPN, meaning only business content will be routed through enterprise infrastructure. This approach not only keeps corporate content secure, but also helps in bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments, by imposing barriers between personal data and business data.
The update also will include additional tools with which MDM vendors can give IT control over specific families of apps. The enhancements should allow apps to interact with one another without violating iOS's sandboxed structure. They should also further enable companies to manage their assets while leaving personal content alone. iOS 7's additional security enhancements include third-party data protection, which encrypts data in third-party apps with a user's pass code until the device is unlocked.
2. iOS 7 enables single sign-on and other productivity boosters.
iOS 7 enables single-sign on (SSO) authentication to multiple business apps that IT can define via an MDM agent. This enhancement should save employees from juggling a variety of passwords. By making it more convenient to access corporate material, SSO also should improve employee productivity.
According to PJ Gupta, CEO of MDM vendor Amtel, SSO's convenience will also encourage users to adopt corporate policies, which will in turn compel enterprises to push out more business apps. He said users and IT will have "more confidence" about iOS devices at work.
iOS 7 also includes support for Hotspot 2.0, which should enable easier transitions between cellular and Wi-Fi networks -- another potential productivity booster. AirDrop, a new peer-to-peer file-sharing feature, could also help increase office productivity. In his report "iOS 7 Offers Major Improvements for the Enterprise," Gartner analyst Dulaney noted that the research firm has "never been a fan" of such methods for enterprise collaboration, however, and that Gartner expects most enterprises to disable the feature.
InformationWeek Elite 100Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
The UC Infrastructure TrapWorries about subpar networks tanking unified communications programs could be valid: Thirty-one percent of respondents have rolled capabilities out to less than 10% of users vs. 21% delivering UC to 76% or more. Is low uptake a result of strained infrastructures delivering poor performance?
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial ServicesIT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of August 7, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."