Why iOS 6 offers lots for consumers, little for business IT

By Richard Absalom, Analyst,Consumer Impact IT, Ovum


Following on from Apple’s unveiling on June 11 of the latest iteration of its iPhone operating system, iOS 6, Ovum has been examining what this means for IT departments aiming to manage iOS usage in the enterprise.

Further details will be forthcoming and the world’s MDM vendors will be working with the developer release of iOS 6 to ensure that they are able to support it as soon as it becomes available, but at first view there appear to be few signs that Apple is moving to directly increase its enterprise focus. With iOS 6, Apple does not deviate from its gradual evolution of the platform: the increased capabilities will primarily appeal to consumers, but there are few additional features to make it easier for IT administrators to manage a fleet of iOS devices in the workplace. For instance, there has not yet been an announcement of an API similar to that for BlackBerry Balance, which allows for work and personal information to be distinguished through policy rules.

Given Apple’s history, and its strategic aim of dominating the consumer market and allowing its users to be brand advocates in the workplace, the lack of some desired enterprise features may come as a disappointment but not a great surprise to those in the IT department charged with managing iOS devices. This situation suits enterprise mobility management vendors, however, who will continue to benefit from the demand to manage these devices in the workplace.

Maintaining the momentum behind consumer demand for iOS

Demand for iOS will continue to be driven by the range of apps that are available to users of the platform and, as with every new iteration, iOS 6 makes it possible to improve that range. New features offered by iOS 6 that will extend the capabilities of app developers include:

  • mapping which now includes 3D flyover maps (not available on iPhone 4) and turn-by-turn navigation;
  • wider capabilities for the Siri personal assistant;
  • wider Facebook integration;
  • Facetime video calling availability on 3G/4G networks, no longer just on WiFi;
  • Passbook – users can manage boarding passes, tickets, coupons, and so on, in one application;
  • A new notification/alert system;
  • improved mail flagging and notifications;
  • more options to accept or reject calls, reply with messages, and a “do not disturb” setting;
  • a “Lost Mode” which locks the phone but displays a number set remotely by the owner and allows the finder to call them.

While this is not a revolutionary update for iPhone users, it does provide a lot of features that will keep consumers interested and encourage them to use their phones in every area of their lives. Indeed, certain features such as mail flagging and notifications, Facetime over the wireless network, and “do not disturb” may appeal to business users in particular. By maintaining its popularity among consumers it is to be expected that more and more users will want to bring their iPhones into work – and it is ultimately up to the IT department to manage this influx.

What iOS 6 can and cannot yet do for the IT department

The main new feature in iOS 6 that will benefit those managing iPhones in the enterprise relates to the App Store: updating apps no longer requires the user to enter their Apple ID credentials every time. For the enterprise, this means that administrators using mobile enterprise application (MEAP) tools can push updates automatically and unobtrusively to devices on their network, without requiring the user to do anything at all.

However, certain features that IT would find useful are still available on competing platforms such as Android and BlackBerry but not on iOS. For instance, there has been no announcement of an API similar to that for BlackBerry Balance, which allows for work and personal information to be distinguished through policy rules. IT cannot disable automatic software updates – doing so would enable the administrator to ensure that corporate apps are compatible before a user installs the updated OS. There is also still no sign of being able to modify third-party applications, which would allow for secure app-wrapping solutions that add a layer of security to individual apps.

Also, iOS developers still lack the capability to provide a solution that toggles between different personas on the same device, such as a “work” profile managed by the IT department and a “personal” profile left entirely alone. This capability may not be available natively on any rival platforms either, but it is possible for developers to work with APIs available in Android to deliver it. Vendors such as Enterproid and Cellrox are already able to do so.

Android’s openness and fragmentation may make it less secure in terms of malware and lack of encryption on early versions, but it is also more flexible and, via MDM solutions, already offering capabilities to the enterprise that Apple is as yet unable or unwilling to do with iOS.

Apple continues to drive the MDM market as IT waits for further management capabilities

Apple has been the principal driver of the “bring-your-own-device” (BYOD) trend, and the release of iOS 6 simply helps it to maintain that position. At the moment, the enterprise mobility vendors that provide support to businesses trying to manage multiple types of consumer-focused devices are the chief beneficiaries of the trend. Apple’s focus on providing a sticky consumer experience is increasingly resulting in its consumer customers wanting to use their iOS devices at work, but IT departments are finding it difficult to manage these devices (and all those running on different platforms such as Android) – and the likes of Apple and Google are not making it easier for them.

This is where the enterprise mobility vendors step in, providing the tools to manage multiple device types and the corporate data accessed on them. The features unveiled for iOS 6 indicate that Apple will continue to use the consumer/employee rather than the IT or procurement department as its main channel into the enterprise and, as long as it pursues this strategy, the enterprise mobility management market will continue to grow.

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