Billion Dollar Apps

How Will iOS 7 Impact Enterprise Apps?

July 30, 2013

  • admin

With any release of iOS there are plenty of new features that have everyone talking, and iOS 7 is no different. In fact, Apple is calling this “the biggest upgrade since the iPhone.” As an early adopter, I completely agree.

iOS 7 presents many opportunities to improve mobile apps in the enterprise, and there are many things to consider.

INTERFACE

Opportunity
The entire interface has been re-imagined and what we have is something much simpler and cleaner. It is as if the scaffolding has been removed and we are left with a minimalist interface that gets out of the way of the content.

When the first iPhone was released, the touch interface was new and we needed to be shown how to use it. It has been 6 years since the original iPhone, and the touch interface is understood and second nature for most, so it is time to move the interface out of the way and bring the content to the forefront.

When any new version of iOS is released to the developer community, everyone starts testing their apps to make sure they function as they should. With iOS 7 that will not be enough. The entire UI/UX needs to be reviewed to make sure that it is consistent with the new design.

This is a very positive change as the controls are now out of the way and the content has been brought to the front. The new design will also help app designers save taps and make data entry more efficient. For example, when you have a list, the list expands in place instead of a picker jumping to another screen.

Things to Consider
There are a few questions that come up when you consider updating your user interface for iOS 7. Such as, how do you support both the new (iOS 7) and the old (iOS 6) interfaces? How will the various application assets be managed? Can they coexist in one project or will multiple projects be required? These are some of the questions that still need answers and time to flush out.

All of the standard controls have changed dramatically and your design and application workflow may not work with them. As an example, the date picker has changed significantly and may change the flow of your application. These will all need to be reviewed and changed as necessary. Custom controls also bring more complexity, as most were designed with a different UI in mind. This is certainly not an insurmountable task, but one that needs to be addressed early and often within the beta cycle as things may still change as we get closer to general availability of iOS 7.

MULTI-TASKING

Opportunity
Multitasking is a feature that was initially released with iOS 4 and has had little change since then. The initial feature set was background tasks for three specific areas: locations services, VOIP and media playback. With iOS 7, that will be expanded greatly to all applications and will allow background data polling as well as server initiated task sent via push notifications.

This will open up a lot of possibilities for enterprise customers that have been limited in the past by not having these types of background services. Data can be sent in the middle of the night rather than doing synchronization when the application is first launched, saving the user much time.

Things to Consider
This functionality needs to be designed intelligently, so it doesn’t suck the battery dry trying to deliver irrelevant data at all times, rather than just when the user needs it.

PER APP VPN

Opportunity
Apps can now be configured to automatically connect to VPN when they are launched. This will ensure that just the apps that need a VPN connection get one rather than enabling it for the entire system as it currently works. This will drastically reduce the amount of VPN traffic to just those apps that need it.

For the business that doesn’t want employee’s personal data or traffic running across their VPN, this feature allows them to configure enterprise apps so that they go through an enterprise VPN and the personal data goes through the public internet. It segregates the traffic so the company doesn’t have to worry about the risks associated with private data flowing across the company network. It gives you much more control at the operating system level of this functionality.

Things to Consider
This will require proper configuration and set up.

AIR DROP

Opportunity
AirDrop gives us the ability to share data with those around us, much like some of the apps on the App Store that allow you to “Bump” to send contacts and photos. AirDrop will allow the same type of functionality, but to all apps that support sharing and for many more data types like a video or document. It uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so no setup is required and all transfers are encrypted.

Things to Consider
Implementing this functionality in a way that is useful, and not gimmicky, should be a priority. It needs to provide real business value if used for the enterprise.

“OPEN IN” MANAGEMENT

Opportunity
The “open in” feature is when you tap on a file and it gives you a list of apps you can use to open the file. Enterprises can now restrict which type of apps can open which type of documents. This means you don’t have to worry about an employee accidentally sharing company documents on Facebook, via email, etc. This is one of the enterprise controls we are most excited about from a security perspective.

Things to Consider
Making sure this feature is deployed in a way that makes sense for each organization is going to be time consuming, but very worthwhile. It will require the administrator to define which types of files can be opened by which apps, for each type of user.

MDM

Opportunity
The MDM protocol has been enhanced to support things such as wireless set up of managed apps, installation of custom fonts, configuration of accessibility options, AirPrint printer configuration and AirPlay destination whitelist. Additionally the enrollment process has been streamlined so that devices may be automatically enrolled during activation.

Prior to iOS 7, this had to be built in for each individual app. Now IT can more centrally and easily manage the configurations for apps.

Things to Consider
This will require MDM updates and probably changes to the way people have been managing devices, app enhancements, and changes to take advantage of some of the other features. As this is a process change rather than just technology, it is probably one of the bigger updates to implement.

SINGLE SIGN-ON

Opportunity
This allows all enterprise apps to share the same sign on credentials so that multiple apps do not have to prompt for sign on individually. It will be easier for development and to rollout suites of apps without requiring users to login over and over.

Things to Consider
To implement this functionality, a business will have to expose their single-sign on infrastructure to the internet. Many organizations do not do this, and the IT security team will need to wrestle with the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.

APP STORE LICENSE MANAGEMENT

Opportunity
This is a big one. Currently the App Store Volume Purchase Program (VPP) uses redemption codes for distribution and deployment. This has a major flaw in that you cannot revoke those when an employee leaves the company. With iOS 7 this has been changed and apps can be assigned to employees for use, however ownership will remain with the company so that licenses can be revoked. Mac apps and books will also now be supported by VPP.

Things to Consider
MDM software will help you best leverage this feature, so if you don’t have it, selecting a partner and implementing MDM will be an important decision. If you do have an MDM service in place already, an upgrade will be required.

FIPS 140-2 ENCRYPTION

Opportunity
This enables broader use by government and some industry segments because this type of security is required to maintain compliance with various laws and regulations.

Things to Consider
Apps will need to be reworked to take advantage of this level of security.

CONCLUSION

iOS 7 is a very major update. It is almost as if it is a version 1 of an entirely new operating system. We have an entirely new user interface and a robust list of new features for developers to take advantage of. Everyone needs to start testing their current apps now as well as review their user interface to take full advantage of the new design. If history proves itself correct, and I think it will, iOS 7 will be adopted very quickly by both consumer and enterprise customers alike.

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