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Apple Enterprise is boss

By Jeremy Hintz / June 13, 2014


Apple Enterprise is boss

If you watched WWDC, you’ll probably recall that there was a not-so-subtle moment when Craig Federighi, SVP of Software Engineering at Apple, noted that 98% of the Fortune 500 runs on iOS. Showing apps for Salesforce and Microsoft Excel, he dove into the various features and benefits that Apple’s Enterprise solutions offer, but not before he sarcastically (but also dead seriously declared) “We’re coming after the other 2%.” Despite Apple’s declaration of victory, their lead is not quite as large as they made it seem at WWDC. When you factor in education and government buyers, they hold closer to 70% of the market-sector share. But ultimately the enterprise space is one with a void to fill.

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An honest look at the enterprise space

Traditionally, BlackBerry was synonymous with the enterprise, dominating the area because of their superior security features and robust offerings. However, that was before BYOD and the rise of touch screens. Employers stopped handing out the keyboard-laden devices simply because employees at all levels did not want them.

Android could pose a bit of a problem for Apple, as they offer a relatively lower cost solution without sacrificing quality or features, but they’ll have to address some security issues first. Hackers aside, with many companies moving to Google Suite for their email and calendar needs, Android would seemingly be in great shape to take a cut of the market share.

Tim Cook made a point of mentioning in his keynote that 99% of mobile malware affects Android devices. Again, a somewhat inflated stat, but the principle is dead on. Samsung rolled out Knox in February 2013, which despite being US DOD-certified for government use, has not created any significant penetration due to its higher activation costs.

The fact is that for as much as people have knocked Apple in recent years for what they call its “sandbox” or “walled-garden” approach, that’s kind of exactly what you look for in an enterprise solution. In addition, Apple offers fantastic integration of handsets, tablets, and PCs.

You’ve gotta hand it to them

Handoff, Apple’s most promising Continuity feature, showed how integration makes for an important tool of the mobile workforce. Handoff allows you to start composing an email or word doc on a mobile device—like many of us do—and seamlessly finish it by jumping on your Macbook or other Apple device. Your email or doc will be up and waiting for you to continue, just as you left it.

This enhanced device continuity is a small change, considering it isn’t radically different from just saving a draft of whatever you’re working on, but it represents a larger potential shift down the line. Other email features include the ability to mark individual messages for S/MIME encryption, adding to the platform’s security edge, the ability to mark message threads as “VIP” or “outside of organization” for better-configured notification preferences, and the integration of more third-party document providers.

Made to order

Another feature Apple unveiled for the enterprise was simpler device activation, something that has traditionally been a pain-point for IT professionals, regardless of platform. With their over-the-air profile setup, configuring employee devices can now be quick and painless. You can even set up a device while it’s still in the box! This obviously beats the process of walking down to the IT desk and handing your phone off to strangers for a 4-hour time block. It allows businesses to manage their information and security while also respecting their employees’ privacy.

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Message received

In addition to the email enhancements, Apple also unveiled some iMessage upgrades that could prove valuable to business organizations. While Apple made many of its improvements in hopes of encroaching upon the turf of consumer applications like WhatsApp, Line, and Facebook’s new Messenger app, the changes also take direct aim at Google and Microsoft—something Apple was not shy in doing throughout the conference.

GChats and Lync, respectively, own a large percentage of business messaging, but iMessage offers a similarly (or even better) integrated approach. With improvements to group messaging and the ability to send video and audio messages, Apple is making a real run at the office chat space, hopefully with fewer duck faces than we saw during the keynote.

duck-face

iCloud gets a promotion

Perhaps one of the biggest announcements of WWDC was iCloud Drive, an improvement on iCloud that enables users to manage their files more centrally. Corporate documents can be synced across Windows, iOS and OS X devices, with custom set permissions for who can view what files. IT administrators will be able to manage iCloud Drive, as well as disable managed devices that are synced to it. They can also enforce restrictions for who can open documents downloaded from enterprise domains into certain apps, so they can make sure that the files stay off other file sharing applications. The “always-on” VPN feature of iOS 8 will also reduce the pain of employees accessing their files remotely.

App efficiency is key

The head honcho of Apple’s Enterprise efforts is their commitment to making it easy to develop enterprise apps for iOS and OS X. Apple’s new SDK includes over 3,000 new API’s to integrate native features and third-party services. This integration means more powerful apps that are quicker to build and ship, so businesses can build internal tools that truly empower their employees to get their work done. This may not sound like a huge change, but Apple’s homepage labels the integration in iOS 8 “the biggest developer release since the App Store.” In addition, Apple will make it even easier to test and distribute those applications with TestFlight. Apple bought TestFlight back in February, and WWDC was its coming out party. iOS 8 apps will be able to load easily onto the beta-testing platform, and the developer will be able to choose testers to deploy the app to.

Two other major products that make enterprise app development easier are CloudKit and TouchID API’s. CloudKit is Apple’s answer to Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Integration of CloudKit will allow developers to include cloud storage in their apps more easily, without all the wonkiness that comes from bringing in third-party systems. TouchID is Apple’s fingerprint sensor, introduced with the iPhone 5S. What this means for the enterprise is, once again, more security. Developers can limit access to their enterprise applications to that user only, requiring fingerprint identification to access protected resources.

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Apple came out swinging at its competitors in the enterprise space this year, and made no qualms about declaring its intention to own that arena. It will be interesting to see how some of their new features play out, but one thing is for sure: Apple Enterprise means business.

Jeremy Hintz is an undergraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing a degree in Computer Science. He’s also the creator of the Longhorn Game Plan App, a crucial download for any UT sports enthusiast.