In the seven years since the first iPhone and Apple's then-new mobile operating system arrived, iOS has morphed from a consumer-centric OS into one with a wealth of enterprise-worthy features. Ground-breaking as it was, iOS didn't originally support third-party apps and offered no management or security functions. Since then, however, it has grown into a robust platform that boasts one of the biggest productivity app catalogs on Earth and a variety of features that IT can use to configure, monitor, manage and secure iPhones -- and since 2010, iPads -- with relative ease. It was an evolution no one saw coming when Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in January 2007.
The changes Apple made to iOS -- coupled with the bring-your-own-device trend of recent years allowed the company to quietly penetrate the workplace thorough the proverbial backdoor as employees brought in their own phones and tablets for work.
Now, Apple is looking to move into the enterprise in an even more assertive way -- with IBM as a partner. That partnership, unveiled on Tuesday, is just the latest in a string of moves Apple has undertaken to build credibility as a serious enterprise player.
Here's a look at how iOS -- and the devices that use it -- have evolved over the years.
2007: The original iPhone shipped and it was as far from an enterprise device as you could get at the time. The iPhone supported no third-party apps, no corporate mail or messaging, and supported only 2G data connections.
2008: Apple launched iOS 2 along with the iPhone 3G. In addition to building out the iPhone feature set with GPS, 3G networking and the App Store, Apple delivered the first iOS enterprise capabilities. Most significant was support for Exchange ActiveSync, which allowed access to Exchange for email, contacts and calendars as well as basic Exchange passcode policies and the ability to remotely wipe a lost or stolen device. Apple also released the iPhone Configuration Utility, which allowed IT departments to create configuration profiles to manage some device features, albiet without a reliable method for distribution.
2009: Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS with support for hardware-based encryption.
2010: There were several important enterprise milestones for Apple this year.
The first was the introduction of the iPad. Although initially seen as a toy or purely a content-consumption device, the iPad quickly began to pop up in a number of workplaces. One of the first professional groups to bring iPads to work was physicians.
Just weeks after the iPad went on sale, then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs hosted an Apple event to preview some of the features of iOS 4. The event included a brief section on enterprise features, including expanded VPN support, email encryption, encryption and data security APIs for developers, and expanded device management capabilities.
Apple launched iOS 4 a couple of months later with an extensive mobile management framework that allowed true over-the-air management and the ability to remotely wipe devices without relying on Exchange ActiveSync. In a surprise move, Apple opted not to build its own enterprise management server for iOS devices and allowed third-party companies to development their own management solutions. The move helped jump start the enterprise mobility management (EMM) market we know today.