iOS8 – The best mobile platform for enterprise?

Rob Borley
by
on 26 June 2014

As the dust settles around Apple’s 2014 WWDC, analysts are starting to sift through the announcements to assess what the latest developments mean for consumers and businesses. Of particular interest are the new features bundled with iOS8 which look set to further improve the business user’s experience.

iOS8 enterprise features

Among the new features of specific interest to enterprise organisations were:

Improved security

iOS 8 now features user-controllable S/MIME settings to sign and encrypt emails to prevent interception. Apple have also adapted app security so that they need to be ‘unlocked’ with a passcode or touch ID login before use, keeping corporate data stored inside the app slightly safer.

Improved device management

Apple improved mobile device management (MDM) capabilities in iOS7, helping businesses better manage their smartphones and tablets. iOS8 includes a few extra tools such as allowing for content filtering (ensuring work devices are not being abused) and defining the apps which can be used with corporate devices.

The MDM provisions have also been tightened up to give systems administrators greater control of connected devices. Users will no longer be able to set their own security restrictions or wiping devices for instance. There have also been significant improvements to single sign-on provisions.

Improved email and scheduling

iOS8 now properly exploits shared calendars and Exchange functionality, helping employees stay better connected to the enterprise whilst on the move. Apple has also started to dismantle certain aspects of the famed ‘walled garden’ by allowing users to open corporate documents in third-party apps, getting around the issue of creating duplicates when editing and amending data.

The email app has undergone a few cosmetic changes, mainly designed to make managing the inbox more efficient. Additional ‘swipe’ functionality makes it easy to assign actions to messages, and out-of-office responses can now be set from the handset.

The King is dead, long live the King

Apple critics will be quick to point out that many of these new features are already available in Android, and have been for some time. Yet despite this Android has still failed to break into the enterprise mobile computing scene in the same way that the iPhone and iPad have.

The key to Apple’s success inside the enterprise has been to capture users outside work. Users have found that their iDevices make them more efficient in their personal lives, and they want to replicate that experience at work. This trend has gone on to become the driving force for enterprise BYOD adoption.

During his WWDC keynote speech, CEO Tim Cook suggested that Apple had acquired 130 million new customers in the last year as a result of their focus on an exceptional user experience:

“Many of these customers were switchers from Android. They had bought an Android phone, by mistake, and then sought a better experience. And a better life. And decided to check out iPhone and iOS.”

Despite Apple’s declining consumer smartphone market share, enterprise adoption remains buoyant. Ultimately Apple’s choice to focus on user experience above any other factor has helped iOS gain and maintain market share within the enterprise. And it is for this reason that many ‘enterprise’ features have taken some time to arrive in iOS.

iOS8 – it’s not re-inventing the wheel

Many of the improvements to iOS8 are tweaks, refining existing functionality to make it more user-friendly, and therefore of higher value. Native mobile device management capabilities were introduced for the first time in iOS7, but it is only with the release of iOS8 that many of the most powerful functions have been introduced. For Apple, incremental improvements create a more rounded, more functional tool than a big-bang launch.

Organisations looking to create useful mobile apps would do well to learn from the Apple ‘user first’ approach to ensure that the finished product is used to its full potential. Focusing on the user experience first allows your business to create an app that is pleasant to use and provides the basic functionality required to help employees get on with their roles.

With the initial needs satisfied, your business can then focus on refining the app and adding new functionality according to user feedback. As Apple have clearly demonstrated, an app that is easy and pleasurable to use will always trump a feature-packed alternative, even when it is less functional.

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