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iOS 7 and the enterprise iPhone

Will Kelly breaks down some of the enterprise-ready features of iOS 7 on the iPhone.

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In a previous post, I offered some tips for supporting iOS 7 in the enterprise. By now, iOS 7 updates should be in full force across corporate, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) iPhones. This is probably the most enterprise-ready version of iOS yet. An enterprise-wide iOS 7 upgrade should lead to some rewrites of mobile security plans and how enterprise mobile users interact with corporate resources.

Beyond new Mobile Device Management (MDM) support, here are several iOS 7 features that can lead to changes in collaboration, mobile access, and device management. 

AirDrop

The new iOS 7 AirDrop feature opens up some interesting collaboration options for mobile users, even on the iPhone. When your users enable AirDrop, they can share content from a number of iOS 7 apps with other iOS 7 users they specify. If the other user accepts, the content opens in the application from which it was sent (for example, web sites open in Safari and documents open in Quickoffice).

While Apple does a great job of documenting the AirDrop feature, this is new ground, so my recommendation for any enterprise wanting to put it to work it to provide some training or at least a job aid about the process.

Enterprise Single Sign On (SSO)

SSO is a defacto corporate security standard, so iOS 7 support could help cement the iPhone further into the enterprise. Opening up SSO support in iOS 7 requires some helping hands from IT and app developers to get working.

The new SSO support in iOS 7 enables an iPhone user to use the same credentials across apps without having to reenter passwords. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to test out SSO support for this post.

Per app VPN

The new per app VPN support in iOS 7 really got my attention, because it leads itself to many use cases. For example, per app VPNs can be set for critical corporate apps like email, enterprise social networking, project management, and customer relationship management (CRM). The per app VPN protects just that app’s data without sapping iPhone performance.

Manage apps and accounts for opening documents and attachments

This feature protects your corporate data by controlling which apps and accounts your iOS 7 users can use to open documents and attachments. This feature should prove to be a keystone of corporate mobile collaboration strategies, because it keeps corporate documents in corporate apps and prevents personal documents from being opened in corporate managed apps.

Improved email client

It’s safe to say that I’m not a fan of the default iOS email client, considering I’ve moved my personal and business email to Mailbox and have previously written my impressions about Boxer. However, I’ve spent some time with the new iOS 7 default email client, and Apple is making some positive moves including a redesigned search, view PDF annotations, and smart mailboxes. For those of you hooked up to Exchange 2010, there's now support for syncing notes with Outlook to a PC.

Personally, I’m not sure I would turn back to the default email client quite yet, but the improvements show that Apple has been listening to the feedback about what’s been a rather lackluster app.

Third-party app data protection

All third-party apps in the iOS 7 ecosystem now have data protection enabled automatically, making information stored in the App Store apps secure with the user’s passcode until they unlock their device. Third-party app data protection leverages the user’s passcode to create a unique encryption key without much IT intervention.

Remote configuration of managed apps

The remote configuration of managed apps feature that iOS 7 touts means that there’s going to have to be some action in the iOS 7 developer ecosystem to make it happen. However, this action will only  happen if customer requests drive developers to add support for it.

While this feature is very promising to the enterprise, we’ll have to wait and see if developers get on board to support it in their free and fee-based enterprise apps.

Free iWork software

If you purchase a new iPhone 5s or 5c, Apple lets you download the iWork suite of Office apps for free. Sure, iWork probably can’t challenge Microsoft Office in the enterprise, but unless Microsoft rewrites their mobile strategy one cloud at a time, iWork for iOS and iWork for iCloud could be the sweet spot between mobile and cloud office applications.

Final thoughts

While the new iOS 7 enterprise features require some future involvement from app developers and IT, they're going to make for some much needed security, remote access, and productivity enhancements that can help cement Apple as an enterprise mobility solution that appeals to business and technical mobility users. 

Do you think iOS 7 will help the secure the iPhone as a BYOD device in the enterprise? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.


About

Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applica...

2 comments
jefffosterusa
jefffosterusa

I didn't get the sense that the author disliked anything about 7, my impression is that Apple has made notable enterprise improvements.

adornoe
adornoe

When even the author of the article didn't sound very convinced about the "new" features, then, iOS 7 isn't ready for the enterprise.  Plain and simple.