Like every software ever released from any company, Apple iOS 7 is not perfect – but its the most exciting operating system for Apple devices since the original iPhone. There are new features like Control Center, iTunes radio and AirDrop, and enhancements to Notification Center, multitasking, the Camera and Photos apps, Safari, Siri, and more. These features are aimed primary at consumers.
Perhaps what is most exciting and not very obvious to most people is that iOS 7 will likely be the most impactful release yet for the Enterprise. Beyond features listed above, which will also help the Enterprise user, here are key enterprise features that may not be visible to the average user.
iBeacon: iBeacon is Apple’s answer to Near-Field-Communications (NFC) – a micro-location geofencing mechanism that will open a new wave of use cases and applications that include location-based shopping, coupons, payment, indoor maps and navigation. The technology allows mobile apps to recognize when an iPhone is near a small wireless sensor called a beacon (or iBeacon). The beacon can transmit data to an iPhone – and visa versa – using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). iBeacon is considered superior to NFC for two reasons: NFC requires close proximity (8 inches), while iBeacons’ range is up to 50 meters; and NFC-enabled devices require an NFC chip while iBeacon only requires Bluetooth and OS software that supports BLE (which iOS 7 does support)
Enterprise single sign-on. iOS 7 allows apps to work with the system-level SSO capability. This means that business users (with the proper back-end and app support) can now enter their corporate credentials once and use multiple apps without re-authentication.
Open-In management. This lets IT control which apps can open and store corporate data. This means now enterprises can manage the where and how their data is stored on iOS devices. For example, you don’t want an employee to snap an image of a confidential company document and post it to Facebook
Corporate Data Encryption and Protected: Application data can now be automatically encrypted until the first time a user passcode is successfully entered after a device reboot; optionally, developers can flag apps to re-encrypt the data when the phone locks.
More Advanced MDM Support. BYOD Management requires Device-based software that protects and manages the device and its content, as well as Network-based BYOD software that protects and manages network resources. The MDM protocol in iOS 7 includes a number of new commands, queries, and configuration options that make third-party MDM solutions even more powerful. This means Institutionally owned devices can be automatically enrolled in MDM during activation and wirelessly set up – saving IT time and getting users up and running faster than ever
App Store license management. The App Store Volume Purchase Program (VPP) now offers businesses the ability to assign apps to their users while keeping full ownership and control over app licenses. This means companies can purchase app licenses through the VPP website, and can use their MDM solution to assign apps to employees over the air. With BYOD devices employees can enroll with their personal Apple IDs without providing it to their company, and apps are placed in their purchase history for self-service download, or are installed automatically via MDM. This means Corporate Apps can be revoked at any time and reassigned to other employees. At the same time employees can continue to use their personal App IDs for personal apps.
Per-app VPN. Business Apps can now be configured to automatically connect to VPN when they are launched. It ensures that data transmitted by managed apps travels through VPN — and that other data, like an employee’s personal web browsing activity, does not. This helps protect corporate data going through the VPN and keeps privacy to the end user data -especially important if that end user has bought their own device.
Activation lock. With “Find My iPhone”, a lost or stolen iPhone can be traced, locked or remotely wiped. And now these features can’t be disabled without the owner’s iCloud username and password
The last big Enterprise release I remember is probably Exchange ActiveSync support, introduced in iOS 2 back in 2008. Then in 2009 with the release of iOS 3, basic support for MDM plus copy and paste were added. In 2010, iOS 4 gave us multitasking. Dribs and drabs until now.
So what do you think? Do you agree that iOS 7 is the biggest and most impactful release yet for the Enterprise? Please comment below or send me a tweet.
Ali Kafel is the Director of Product Marketing for Enterasys Networks. A contributor to the Enterasys Blog site and TMCnet. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Suffolk University. Please follow him on twitter @akafel for more thoughts on this and other Enterprise Networking topics.