iPhone OS 3.0: Enterprise Angle Is in the Details
Aside from the attention-grabbing new features in the forthcoming Apple iPhone 3.0 software release-such as the Spotlight search and push notifications--a lot of what would be interesting to an enterprise audience went unaddressed in Apple's March 17 premiere event. But there does appear to be much more under the covers that will be worthy of investigation and exploration as we approach the software's expected June release.
I wasn't at the event in Cupertino, Calif., instead taking in the proceedings via Engadget's live blog. In particular, one slide that was presented hinted at a number of interesting additions in the code that could be attractive to an enterprise audience.
In my review last year of the iPhone Configuration Utility, I was very disappointed with the implementation Apple put forth-specifically, with the unfortunate amount of user interaction needed to install policies: Administrators have to send a policy via e-mail or post to a Web page; users then retrieve the policy and follow through with installation. This means that admins have no control over enforcement of policy installation unless they install policies personally in a depot-style setting.
I was also dismayed with the security practices in place around a policy. Policies are delivered in an unencrypted XML file that obfuscates certain information (such as VPN Group Keys), but the EULA for the utility specifically stated that this data was not encrypted.
In the slide I mentioned above, Apple officials hinted that they have addressed these concerns, with both over-the-air profiles and encrypted profiles listed as new features. How these features will be implemented, of course, remains to be seen.
The presentation focused on the opening up of the Bluetooth API to third-party application developers, but there also appear to be some minor changes on the Wi-Fi side. The slide lists new support for EAP-SIM, and the presentation mentions "Wi-Fi Auto Login," which can be used to automatically log into access points protected by a captive portal.
Other features of note:
--Notes synchronization Users can finally synch Notes, but only via iTunes (not, it appears, via MobileMe or Exchange).
--LDAP No clue what this will entail, but it was only faintly (literally) listed on the slide, which makes me feel that whatever it might be will be minor.
--Parental controls This sounds like it will be an extension of the previous Restrictions feature, locking out more types of content (applications and videos) according to an undefined ratings scale. Previously, users could lock out consumption of music tagged Explicit.
--VPN On Demand
Of course, the merit and scope of these new features will be known only when we can test the software for ourselves; Apple officials chose not to expound upon the features during the presentation, and related documentation has yet to see the light of day. So, while enterprise iPhone customers may still take a back seat in Apple's iPhone marketing campaigns, there may yet be more than meets the eye within the actual code.