WWDC: Apple's iOS 7 moves even closer to the enterprise

WWDC 2013: The focus at the Apple [AAPL] developer conference may appear to be on consumer markets, but the company has also improved its offering to enterprise users with a range of promised iOS 7 features that should maintain the maker's place at the crest of the BYOD wave.

Better for business

The company focused on a few consumer-friendly changes during its presentation yesterday, but business users were promised a range of handy new improvements that should make the iPhone/iPad even more attractive to the enterprise.

Apple's extensive iOS 7 pages includes this mention of its use in business:

"iOS 7 includes many new features designed to make it easier for businesses to put iOS devices in the hands of employees. Features such as better protection of work and personal data, management of app licenses, seamless enrollment in Mobile Device Management, wireless app configuration, enterprise single sign-on support, and default data protection for third-party apps."

  • Activation Lock
  • Enterprise single sign-on
  • App Store Volume Purchases
  • Per App VPN.

These improvements will be of great value to CIOs and CEOs attempting to integrate iOS devices within their existing mobile infrastructure, giving the already secure system yet another advantage against its leaky Android competition. Seamless enrollment in Mobile Device Management is particularly valuable, as the consensus among decision makers within the enterprise is that MDM is essential (i.e. mandatory) for safe and secure deployments of mobile devices within business.

Building tomorrow

It is telling that the only distribution of Android approved for use within the US Department of Defence is Knox, a Samsung variant that's only available within some Android phones. Conversely, all iOS 6 devices are considered acceptable for such use -- in other words, while a very small number of Android devices are considered safe enough for the military, 93 percent of the existing user base of iOS devices are seen as fit for active service.

Apple's bid to increase its already growing slice of the enterprise market isn't confined to giving such users more of what they want today -- it's also about delivering tools with which to build new and exciting businesses tomorrow. You see, the OS includes support for a key tool with which to enable NFC-style immersive business opportunities and experiences.

Apple kept this quiet during its keynote session, but is evidently talking with developers about its plans as evidenced by its promise that:

"Enhance your apps with support for new types of accessories. Location beacons are a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence. Location beacons will provide apps a whole new level of location awareness, such as trail markers in a park, exhibits in a museum or product displays in stores."

This is a much bigger deal than you might think. I suspect the reason Apple hasn't made such a big deal of how big a deal these Location beacons will become is because it's going to be a really, really big deal. Real life examples might include:

  • Vouchers for cups of coffee -- zapped to your iPhone.
  • Discount deals in stores -- zapped to your iPhone as you pass.
  • Event and museum ticket deals -- zapped to your phone as you pass.

I'll skip the creepy nature of such pester-powered advertising and simply observe that many of these manifestations could very easily work well with Passbook. Passbook didn't achieve a great deal of recognition during the WWDC keynote, which began with news Apple now holds 575 million iTunes accounts.

Can you see the connection?

For me it suggests Apple is sewing a few seeds with which smart developers can create new business opportunity.

One more feature that will delight consumer and business users alike: Apple is introducing "activation lock" to fight iPhone theft. This is very clever as it bricks phones when they are lost or stolen. A thief won't be able to make the stolen device work. “We think this is going to be a really powerful theft deterrent,” Apple software VP Craig Federighi said.

It certainly will. This feature -- a software-based feature that requires a non-fragmented OS base in order to be effective -- means street criminals will now have to target another platform. Enterprise users will love this as much as consumers shall, as it means their data is rendered that much safer when held on an employee's device.

Criminals will hate this feature, as it will force them to target devices on other platforms, which in the current environment means Google will become entirely responsible for the mobile device crime wave - both inside the device (with malware) and extrinsically (in terms of theft).

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