Apple has always been a company focused on the consumer market. The challenge is that when you win in the consumer world, people expect to be able to use their phones, tablets and apps at work. As a result, while iOS devices are certainly popular within the world’s largest enterprises, it has been unclear to most businesses how much focus Apple is willing to put toward corporate IT.
But if you look carefully at the series of announcements that Apple has made over the last four months, it’s clear that Apple aims to become the de-facto standard within corporate IT. This more clearly articulated focus on the enterprise started with investor calls in April, grew with the news at WWDC back in June, and increased momentum, most recently, with the “Hey Siri” event in August. When you connect all the dots, you see a clear and present focus on business. Here are the main areas that outline that vision:
A Larger, More Powerful iPad Will Power an Increasing Number of App Partnerships
Much has been made around the iPad Pro’s hardware — a larger, super high-res screen, new stylus and more processing power prove it’s a machine built for apps. And Apple’s application demonstrations from Microsoft and Adobe show that it has loftier ambitions than consuming high-definition media and interactive games. The plan for the iPad Pro is to power business-class applications. With a price point starting at $799 and topping out at over $1000, there may be a certain employee that brings their own iPad Pro to work, but smart money says that many of these next-gen tablets will be bought by enterprise IT.
To make the iPad useful for IT — and to compete against the Surface — there will need to be an increasing number of tools to target the varying needs of vertical use cases, from point of sale to field service automation. That’s where Apple’s wealth of application partners comes in. In its April and July earnings calls, Apple quietly announced that it’s building an ecosystem of business-focused developers that deliver out-of-the-box solutions that mobilize business processes.
If you’ve decided to deploy iPad Pros as your point-of-sale device, you probably don’t want it being used to watch movies or check sports scores on ESPN. Nor do you want users to have to handle updating apps from the App Store. IOS 9 addresses these issues in key ways. With iOS 9, Apple is introducing features that will more easily enable IT to control iOS devices and automate provisioning of software. Using iOS 9, an enterprise can provision apps from the App Store silently, and disallow the user from installing their own applications. The operating system also makes it easier to place devices into supervised mode, which enables capabilities like disabling iMessage and locking device settings, round out the abilities to make an iPad Pro more suited to mission-specific tasks enterprise IT wishes to deploy them for.
Apple Announces Cisco Partnership — Quietly Bolsters Support for Real-Time Apps
This month, Apple also announced a new partnership with Cisco. While the details were hazy, one can assume that a big focus of the relationship will be around Cisco’s wealth of Unified Communications and collaboration tools. One of the less-noted features of iOS 9 is that the per-app VPN framework, which allows only business data and not personal data to be sent to corporate IT systems, will now support the User Datagram Protocol (UDP). This allows real-time applications like Cisco Jabber and Cisco Mobile to work over cellular connections. In short, your iPhone can work as a desk phone, allowing for improved productivity.
New OS Features Quietly Tie Up Loose Ends Around Protecting Enterprise Data
With a focus on applications, the concern from enterprise IT will be whether their data is safe or not. For instance, if I’m using my shiny new iPad Pro to gather customer information, what’s to stop that data from being sent to tools not managed by enterprise IT?
Three features have been introduced in iOS 9 that address that issue. The first allows enterprise IT to decide which applications are “managed,” meaning the data within them is owned by IT. Prior to iOS 9, if a user installed a business app from the App Store, then the app was “unmanaged” and could not interact with enterprise data. The user would have to reinstall the app over again through their corporate app storefront to make it managed. Now, enterprise IT can easily flag which apps are managed and reduce the user intervention required.
Second, iOS 9 provides enhanced controls over AirDrop. Prior to iOS 9, the only way to prevent corporate data from being shared with an unauthorized device was to turn off AirDrop completely. Now, enterprises can configure iOS 9 such that managed applications can’t have their data shared out via AirDrop.
Third, Apple decided that “simple passcodes,” will now require a minimum of six characters when a device with TouchID is enabled. More complex passcodes ensure that the underlying data security of iOS is stronger, preventing loss of data if a device is lost or stolen. The use of TouchID allows for easy authentication to the device and its data while providing for more complex passcodes.
While Apple’s individual announcements may seem limited in scope individually, it’s clear that, taken together, Apple is pursuing the enterprise in a big way. Whether through the introduction of more powerful hardware, more applications targeted to business or improved data security, you should expect that Apple will continue to gain share in the enterprise for 2015 and beyond.
Sean Ginevan is senior director of strategy at MobileIron. At MobileIron, Sean is responsible for working with MobileIron engineering, product management and business development, along with customers and partners to evaluate new market opportunities. He has spoken at numerous industry events, authored many articles on enterprise mobility, and holds patents in mobile DLP and Unified Communications. Ginevan has been with MobileIron nearly six years in roles across business and corporate development, product management and marketing. During his time at MobileIron, he helped grow the company from a stealth mode startup into one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the world (Deloitte Technology Fast 500). Reach him @sginevan.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.