iOS 7, new iPhones may help Apple in the enterprise

The latest iteration of Apple's mobile operating system could finally bring enterprise-level security and management tools to iPhones and iPads, analysts say.

Apple's smartphones may quickly become more attractive to enterprise workers and their IT departments thanks to the company's updated mobile operating system, iOS 7, which became available with the new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c last week. The new operating system is now available for Apple's iPad tablet as well.

Apple said that iOS 7 has about 200 new features, including the greatest number of functions designed specifically for enterprise use since the release of iOS 4 more than three years ago.

Most important for IT managers, analysts say, is that iOS 7 includes application programming interfaces (API) for building links to mobile device management (MDM) software tools used by many corporate IT shops. The update also adds single sign-on (SSO) functionality, support for multitasking and a standard method for embedding management features in enterprise applications.

In a Gartner report issued last month, analyst Ken Dulaney wrote that "iOS 7 will have a high impact for enterprise IT leaders in terms of security and management." He called on enterprise IT shops to test iOS 7 for use with their MDM software consoles. The iOS 7 updates "will most certainly deepen the [enterprise's] relationship and commitment to Apple," he wrote.

Dulaney did note that Apple still doesn't have its own network operations center like rival BlackBerry does, so the implementation of a management console for iOS 7 must come from a third-party MDM provider. But the list of MDM vendors is a long one, and includes old-line companies such as IBM and Microsoft along with several others, such as Good Technology, AirWatch, Mobile Iron, Citrix and Symantec.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates, agreed that the updated iOS software does have some strong IT-targeted features, but he contends that the BlackBerry Enterprise Server still offers a "greater breadth and depth of management" for BlackBerry devices than iOS 7 with third-party MDM consoles can provide for iPhones. BlackBerry Enterprise Server capabilities for platforms other than BlackBerry is less comprehensive, he noted.

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