Timeline: How Apple's iOS gained enterprise cred

When Apple's iPhone arrived in '07, it was aimed squarely at the consumer market; so was its OS

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2011: iOS 5, which launched alongside the iPhone 4S and Siri, included another handful of enterprise management additions, including the ability disable Siri and iCloud as well as set limits on voice and data roaming. The biggest enterprise move, however, was the launch of Apple's Volume Purchase Program, which allowed companies to bulk purchase apps from the App Store and distribute them to users. The program was far from perfect with its Achilles heel being that app distribution transferred ownership of the app to the user; that meant companies would have to re-purchase the app if a user left the company.

2012: This was another year with multiple enterprise milestones for iOS.

Early in the year, Apple launched Apple Configurator, a free utility that allowed for the configuration of multiple iOS devices and app distribution. Along with this utility, which was Mac-only and required devices to be connected by USB, Apple introduced the concept of "supervised devices" -- a moniker that provided greater management of a device than MDM. These features grew in iOS 6 and 7 and were designed to provide greater control over devices that are institutionally owned.

iOS 6 arrived with still moe enterprise mobility features. Apple also launched the third-generation iPad, the first iOS device to feature LTE connectivity. Apple later in the year introduced the iPhone 5, the iPad mini, and a fourth-generation iPad, all of which could support LTE networks and all of which used Apple's new Lighting connector.

Apple also began allowing for the configuration of Apple TV devices deployed in business and education settings.

2013: This year saw the biggest iOS enterprise gains since iOS 4 launched in 2010.

The biggest news was iOS 7. In addition to completely revamping the look and feel of the OS, iOS 7 delivered a host of new enterprise capabilities, including the separation of work and personal content; automatic data security features for all apps; enterprise single sign-on; per-app VPN; managed app configuration; silent app update and installation; and the ability to configure AirPlay and AirPrint settings.

Apple introduced the iPhone 5s and Touch ID as well as the A7 chip. In addition to being a 64-bit chip, the A7, which also powered the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display, includes the Secure Enclave, a powerful encryption and security component used by Touch ID and other security components of iOS 7.

Two years after launching VPP, Apple introduced Managed App Distribution, which allows organization to license iOS apps. Those apps can be distributed to users via mobile management solutions with access to the apps revoked and reassigned if a user leaves the company.

To facilitate content sharing, Apple also introduced AirDrop, a feature that allows any two iOS users in close proximity to exchange content without needing any network or Bluetooth configuration changes.

Apple also introduced the Activation Lock feature in iOS 7, a kill switch that prevents a lost or stolen device from being reactivated unless the owner's Apple ID credentials are entered. Police departments in some major cities credit Activation Lock with a drop in iPhone theft.

In OS X Mavericks Server, Apple also introduced Caching Server, a feature that allows an organization to mirror frequently accessed content from the App Store, such as apps deployed to users as well as app updates.

2014: This year has already seen a few major iOS enterprise milestones in addition to the Apple-IBM deal announced Tuesday.

In February, Apple released enterprise-oriented iOS documentation including a detailed guide to iOS security. The company also announced its Device Enrollment Program, a zero-touch configuration option for company-owned iOS devices and that offered IT administrators access to a range of "supervised device" management options without using Apple Configurator.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. He has been a Computerworld columnist since 2003 and is a frequent contributor to CITEworld.com. Faas is also the author of iPhone for Work (Apress, 2009). You can find out more about him at RyanFaas.com and follow him on Twitter (@ryanfaas).

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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