During the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote back in June, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi made it clear that enterprise mobility is a major focus at Apple, noting the wide range of iOS-tailored enterprise apps and key enterprise management features added over the years, such as advanced support for Exchange accounts, updated security controls, and the Device Enrollment Program (DEP). With this year’s announcements, Apple announced many new features for the enterprise that may actually have a more significant impact compared to the consumer ones.
“It turns out that iOS is a huge hit in the enterprise,” Mr. Federighi noted, revealing a list of big-name companies that are using iPhones and/or iPads. Federighi continued by saying that 98 percent of the Fortune 500 currently uses iOS and that Apple is focused on scooping-up the last two percent.
Apple’s stronghold in the enterprise is largely attributed to the aforementioned enterprise-class mobile apps, including the Office for iPad suite of products. With iOS 8, Apple is taking its enterprise functionality to the next level.
Let’s take a look at some key features that enterprise app developers and IT teams should know about.
Document Storage and Sharing
iCloud Documents & Data has been upgraded in iOS 8, bringing it up to par with other cloud-based storage solutions, including Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive.
iCloud Drive allows users to save, retrieve and edit documents from any OS X 10.10, Windows 7 (or later), or an iOS 8 mobile device. Also, documents may now be saved as individual files or grouped together in folders within an established file structure by application.
Any enterprise with a corporate server (e.g. SharePoint), will now have an easier way of accessing shared documents and media files, similar to a traditional internal network.
Each and every past iOS release has included improvements to Mail, and iOS 8 is no exception. Here are some of the improvements of note:
- Ability to mark messages from external addresses in red, making them more obvious
- Easily flag messages to read later via new gestures
- Ability to set auto-reply messages from within Mail from an Exchange account
- Ability to designate specific emails and email threads as “VIP”, which includes notifications of important responses
- Easily jump between a draft and the inbox in order to quickly copy and paste between messages
iOS 8 includes a broad range of network, security, and management frameworks updates that are likely to be welcomed by enterprises using applications to connect with staff and customers. In addition, the new operating system consists of application-specific features that further solidify security on iOS devices.
For IT teams that are leveraging mobile device management (MDM) solutions, new data management and content filtering features in iOS 8 allow administrators to decide what types of files can be opened on mobile devices in greater detail, right down to which applications are allowed to access specific files.
Touch ID API
Last year, Apple introduced us to Touch ID – an enhancement that allows for secure data and privacy through the use of a secure, biometric control, instead of relying on passwords, which often get forgotten or lost.
Initially, the idea of being able to unlock one’s mobile device(s) or make a purchase in the App Store with TouchID was pretty impressive. Yet sadly, the experience was limited to only those functions.
Mobile app developers have been clamoring for the ability to extend this technology in order to unlock enterprise-class applications without using a passcode and/or authenticate credentials on a network for access to shared resources. This is now totally within the realm of possibility since the Touch ID API has been made available to third-party developers for integration with their apps.
Apple’s integrated messaging application, iMessages, launched as part of the iOS 7 rollout last year. iOS 8 includes some major improvements that may replace similar systems for small-team communication and group messaging, including:
- Adding/removing individual users to/from the group
- Grouping conversations by thread titles for quick reference
- Sending pictures, video, and voice messages directly from the Messages app without having to switch back and forth between applications
- Viewing thumbnails of media content shared throughout the history of a conversation
These improvements should be of interest to organizations and project teams that are scattered across different offices, cities or even time zones.
“Continuity” is a new concept that Apple is introducing in iOS 8 (and OS X Yosemite) that allows iPhone, iPad, and Mac to remain true to their original design and form, while still working seamlessly together. For individuals who use both a Mac and iOS device(s) for work, this could have an enormous impact on the way they work.
No Wi-Fi? No problem. The “Instant Hotspot” feature in iOS 8 allows a Mac to use an iPhone or iPad’s cellular connection for Internet access. Although this technology has been around for years, it has always been a bit of pain because of some wireless carriers’ tethering plans, or the sometimes annoying process of obtaining and entering a password to actually get this to work.
In addition to the potential of greater security and performance compared to public Wi-Fi networks, this enhancement advances the ability for companies to allow its employees to work more autonomously from just about anywhere because they can access the Internet more seamlessly.
Another component of Continuity that businesses need to be aware of is “Handoff,” the ability for a task to be started on an iOS device and then finished on a Mac and vice versa. Now you can start writing an email on your iPhone and pick up where you left off when you sit down at your Mac. Or browse the web on your Mac and continue from the same link on your iPad. It all happens automatically when your devices are signed in to the same iCloud account, according to Apple.
This feature could have significant impacts on several common tasks, such as email and messaging. Handoff will work with Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, and third-party App Store apps that add the functionality.
In my opinion, the most significant feature within Continuity is call answering. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk working on my Mac and my phone rings while charging across the room, I wish there was an easier way to answer the call other than to get up, walk across the room, and pick-up the phone. Now there is.
As long as your iPhone running iOS 8 is on the same Wi-Fi network as your iPad or Mac, you can make and receive phone calls on those devices. These unique capabilities offer an opportunity, not only for convenience, but also potentially for greater productivity. Further, the soon-to-be-released call functionality in iOS 8 may open the door for conference calling, which would only extend Apple’s footprint in the enterprise.
These are just a few of the more than 4,000 new APIs that let open the door for enterprise-class mobile developers to add amazing new features and capabilities to both existing and new apps.
More than anything, the upcoming release of iOS 8 will make it known that Apple is focused on allowing end users to leverage their personal devices for work-related tasks; helping iPhones and iPads become the devices of choice of businesses because they are the devices of choice of their employees in daily life.
The only real unknown leading-up to the official release of iOS 8 is how the new iPhone 6 will take advantage of all these enterprise-supported features. We will all be tuned-in on September 9 to find out!