Guided Access feature can turn an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into a locked-down, single-purpose device. With or without MDM software, what does that mean for enterprises?
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The hoopla following Wednesday's iPhone 5 release largely converged on the device's redesigned hardware and all the new capabilities enabled by iOS 6. Somewhat overlooked--at least initially--was a feature designed to disable functionality: Guided Access. The feature can turn an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into a locked-down, single-purpose device--a concept with obvious business applications.
The culture in Cupertino has traditionally been indifferent to "enterprise-ready" ideals--but thanks to BYOD, iOS has rapidly become a workplace fixture. Guided Access adds to circumstantial evidence that Apple is responding by slowly recalibrating its relationship with IT interests.
To market the lockdown utility, which can also disable touch functions in specific portions of the screen, Apple has offered examples geared toward educators. Pearson Education has already declared intentions for Guided Access.
But on Wednesday, a Zenprise blog expressed enthusiasm for the new iOS function's clear enterprise use. The post claimed Zenprise's MDM products could combine with the new Apple feature, which it called "App Lock," to "offer mobile devices in kiosk-mode together with perimeter-based security, data protection, and compliance." As an example, it described a theoretical hospital in which physicians work efficiently and securely by accessing patient records via Zenprise-equipped iPads.
Ramon Llamas, a senior analyst with IDC, said in a phone interview that App Lock is a "great idea," citing such potential business applications as restaurants that use single-function iPads instead of traditional menus. Gartner VP John Pescatore agreed that opportunities abound for health care and retail. He also remarked that content providers might use the function to protect their intellectual property. A video might only be viewable in Guided Access mode, for example, making it more difficult for a user to execute illegal downloads.
App Lock's premise is not necessarily novel. Several MDM providers--including Zenprise--already supply products that include Guided Access-like app management functions and more. Still, mobile developers will look to improve their respective portfolios by building on top of the App Lock foundation. The Zenprise blog post, for example, promises "more… in the coming weeks."
Even so, with many businesses already invested in MDM services, is Guided Access truly a shake-up?