During the June 2 keynote at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple Vice President Greg Joswick uttered the word rarely heard in public by an Apple executive: “enterprise.”
Joswick wasn’t talking about the nuclear aircraft carrier or the starship of television fame, but rather he was talking about large businesses. Apple, it seems, is finally recognizing that 98 percent of the Fortune 500 uses iOS in one form or another.
What this means for enterprise users is that Apple is now tailoring features on the iPhone and iPad specifically for business and IT users. Some of these features, such as the Device Enrollment Program, are designed to make integration of iOS devices easier on IT departments. Other features include enhancements to security and make it easier to manage iOS devices in an enterprise environment.
So when iOS 8 shows up in the fall of 2014, you can start using third-party document providers, such as your company’s own servers in addition to iCloud as a place to store data. The Device Enrollment Program is designed to allow automatic provisioning of iOS devices so that the IT department won’t have to set up each iOS device manually.
Instead, when the device is taken out of the shrink-wrap, all of the server, communications, enterprise management and specialized apps will be loaded and set up on the device automatically.
The new iOS will also support VIP Threads so that corporate messages can get precedence and can show up on the device lock screen, automatically. Email, contacts and calendars can be set to corporate standards, and Exchange provisioning can is set up automatically.
Apple is also changing how iOS apps integrate with the OS security model. For example, apps can now be configured to offer extensions outside their own sandbox with tightly controlled permissions. For example, a replacement keyboard can be installed into iOS that can either be kept isolated in the sandbox, or it can be given network access so that it can have dictionary access for word prediction.
Apple’s own keyboard is getting better predictive typing that appears to work much like the similar capability in BlackBerry OS 10. In fact, Apple executives even pointed out that BlackBerry was the predecessor to their predictive typing, which was an unusual move for the company.
iOS 8 Features Designed With Enterprise Buyers, Users in Mind
Two features that will likely prove especially useful to smaller businesses are a significant enhancement to iCloud so that it now includes a drive capability similar to Microsoft’s OneDrive or Google’s Drive. Users can save apps for iOS devices or for Mac OS X devices directly to iCloud, which can then be accessed by other Apple devices or from Windows.
Apple’s Continuity feature makes it possible for iOS and OS X devices to know what other nearby devices are doing and to move tasks from one device to another. You could, for example, create a document on your Mac and then review it on your iPad without having to do anything other than click on it. Continuity will also let you make phone calls through your iPhone from your iPad or Mac.
There are a number of other features that will come with iOS 8 when it arrives that will prove useful to corporate users in one context or another, as has always been the case with iPhones and iPads. What’s different this time is that some of these features have been developed specifically for business users and have little or no application to consumers.
In the past, Apple has been highly consumer-oriented. Now it would appear that the number of corporate iOS users has grown to the point that Apple needs to acknowledge them.
Adding to the urgency is the fact that Microsoft is starting to gain some traction with its Windows 8 tablets that are aimed specifically at business users and which come with all the enterprise integration and security features that Microsoft has been providing to enterprise users for years.
Now that Microsoft has launched the Surface Pro 3 and aimed it directly at the MacBook, Apple needs to pay attention. Adding to that, Microsoft has sold more than 200 million copies of Windows 8 since it was launched.
Despite the jeering by Apple CEO Tim Cook, that’s a lot of licenses, far more than the 40 million copies of OS X Mavericks that Cook said were running at about the same as the number of iPads ever sold.
What this means is that Apple has got to pay attention to Microsoft and to Windows 8, especially those Windows 8 tablets. Right now, it would appear that despite the name-calling at today’s WWDC, Microsoft is still getting the winning slice of enterprise users. To maintain its growth in the enterprise market, Apple had to start offering features that are designed to appeal to corporate buyers and users.
Whether Apple’s enterprise effort will succeed remains to be seen, but chances are, it will. iOS devices are already accepted in the enterprise, and as Apple begins to provide better enterprise-grade support, enterprise users won’t move to Microsoft so quickly.
Will Apple beat Microsoft at the enterprise game? Probably not, but with these new improvements, and more to come, it can likely hold its own.