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With iOS 10 recently released and a trio of partnerships with industry heavyweights delivering tangible benefits, Apple looks to maintain its strong position in the enterprise.
Google's Android may be the leading mobile platform overall (with 82.1% worldwide market share in Q2 2016, according to Gartner — see above), but despite initiatives like Android for Work and new business-friendly features in the latest Android 7 ('Nougat') release, Apple's iOS remains more popular in the enterprise.
This time last year (Q3 2015), the Good Mobility Index Report put iOS well ahead in the enterprise, accounting for 66 percent of new device activations — more than double the figure for Android (31%). Unfortunately, following Good Technology's September 2015 acquisition by BlackBerry, we have not seen any more issues of this useful report.
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Apple's walled-garden mobile ecosystem makes iOS an inherently more secure platform, although Android is making progress in this respect through the efforts not only of Google (notably with file-based encryption in version 7, and Google Play for Work), but also of third parties like Samsung and LG. The availability of iOS from just one vendor also helps to ensure that the latest version is rapidly and widely deployed: despite scares over 'bricking' during the update process, iOS 10 has seen a good adoption rate since it became available on 13 September:
Android 7 ('Nougat') has also recently been released to Nexus devices and a few others, including the LG V20, but barely shows up in Google's adoption figures (see above). Indeed, such is the fragmentation of the Android market that even the previous version — Android 6 ('Marshmallow') — is only at 18.7 percent, while the most prevalent release is Android 5 ('Lollipop') with 35 percent. This heterogeneity is one reason why IT managers have generally been more cautious about recruiting Android devices into BYOD and COPE programmes than iPhones and iPads.
Key iOS 10 user features
The key new features in iOS 10 for users and developers include: a revamped Messages app with extensions for developers; third-party developer access to Siri virtual assistant functionality via SiriKit; a redesigned Maps app with new extensions for developers; an AI-driven Memories feature in Photos that automatically groups and presents your images and videos; a new Home app for managing HomeKit-enabled devices; new designs for Music and News; usability enhancements such as Raise to Wake for the iPhone, and expanded use of widgets and 3D Touch; new Siri-driven QuickType features including contextual predictions and multilingual predictive typing; split-view for Safari on the iPad, plus collaboration in Notes and editing of Live Photos; Apple Pay support in Safari as well as in stores and within apps; and a new Bedtime feature in the Clock app.
Apple also introduced a system called Differential Privacy, which, it claims, allows usage patterns to be collected from large numbers of users without compromising their privacy. This is achieved by adding mathematical noise to a small sample of each individual's data.
Key iOS 10 (& 9.3) enterprise features
The enterprise features introduced in iOS 9.3 in March were equally, if not more, important than those that debuted in iOS 10. As MobileIron's iOS 10 white paper put it: "Over the past few releases, iOS has evolved into a fully mature enterprise platform. As a result, Apple has focused less on adding new features and instead put more effort into seamlessly integrating its partner ecosystem."
The 9.3 release of iOS included features such as home screen layout controls, whitelisting and blacklisting of apps, notification controls, MDM-initiated activation lock and MDM Lost Mode. Most of these features require the iOS device to be in Supervised Mode, which provides IT admins with more security and manageability controls than are available with a basic MDM (Mobile Device Management) profile.
In iOS 10, CallKit allows developers to integrate third-party VoIP apps like Cicso's Spark with the built-in Phone app, so that incoming Spark calls appear on the lock screen like regular mobile calls and contacts can be called via Spark. The Universal Clipboard feature allows content to be shared between iOS 10 and macOS Sierra devices via iCloud, rather than other less secure routes such as AirDrop. Apple now supports VPN IKEv2 EAP-only mode in iOS 10, which caters for secure access to corporate data from mobile devices. And from January 2017, all apps submitted to the App Store must include App Transport Security (ATS), which enforces best practices in the secure connections between an app and its back end.
iOS 10 and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)
As far as EMM is concerned, a major development in iOS 10 is its support for AppConfig, a best-practice-promoting community that includes Gartner Magic Quadrant 'leaders' such as AirWatch, MobileIron, IBM and BlackBerry, among others.
AppConfig tools and best practices make it easier for enterprises to adopt and deploy mobile applications by providing a standard approach to app configuration and management. Developers should no longer need to build different versions of their apps for each EMM vendor, for example, while IT admins can easily configure and manage apps in line with their organisations' policies and requirements.
Four of the five EMM leaders in Gartner's Magic Quadrant (AirWatch, MobileIron, Citrix and BlackBerry) were ready with 'zero day' support for iOS 10 on 13 September, but we could find no announcement concerning the readiness of IBM's MaaS360.
Apple's enterprise push
Apple has been courting the mobile enterprise since the July 2014 announcement of the MobileFirst for iOS partnership with IBM, which promised to deliver over 100 iPhone and iPad apps, plus new iOS-optimised IBM cloud services, among other things. IBM duly announced the 100th MobileFirst app in December 2015 — a roster that includes 20 Apple Watch-compatible apps. The apps currently cover 14 industry sectors (Aging, All Employees, Automotive, Banking & Financial Markets, Chemical & Petroleum, Consumer Products, Electronics, Energy & Utilities, Government, Healthcare, Industrial Products, Insurance, Retail, Telecommunications, Travel & Transportation) and 65 individual professions. Future plans include the integration of cognitive capabilities from IBM's Watson, full suites of apps for different industries, and apps targeted specifically at the iPad Pro's large screen, multitasking prowess and stylus (Apple Pencil) support.
In August 2015, Apple announced a partnership with Cisco to deliver a 'fast lane' for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps. The first fruits of this tie-up emerged at Apple's WWDC in June, with the announcement of three solutions: the first two allow iOS 10 devices and Cisco networks to recognize each other, and then turn on wi-fi optimisation and prioritisation for business-critical apps; the third uses iOS 10's CallKit to optimise Cisco's Spark VoIP/collaboration app for iPhones and iPads, as described earlier.
In May 2016, Apple announced a partnership with SAP to "revolutionise the mobile work experience for enterprise customers of all sizes, combining powerful native apps for iPhone and iPad with the cutting-edge capabilities of the SAP HANA platform". Specifically, the partnership will deliver: a SAP HANA Cloud Platform SDK for iOS that will provide tools for organisations to build their own iOS apps; a SAP Fiori for iOS design language that will combine SAP's business-focused user experience with the consumer-grade iOS experience to deliver 'next-generation' enterprise apps; and an SAP Academy for iOS providing tools and training for SAP developers. The new SDK, design language and academy will begin rolling out before the end of 2016. Like IBM, SAP will also develop a portfolio of industry-specific native apps.
Will iOS maintain its lead over Android in the enterprise, or will Google's increasingly business-friendly mobile OS make inroads into Apple's market share? It will be interesting to observe developments over the next year or two.