Apple's iCloud and iOS 5: New challenges for the enterprise

Could business data escape the workplace and get lost in the cloud?

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If Apple is basing over-the-air file storage and sharing in iOS 5 on WebDAV under Lion Server, it's quite possible that that service could be replicated with other WebDAV servers running on other platforms.

What would this look like on an iOS device?

Over the air

Apple is clearly planning to allow-over-the air access to files as part of iOS 5 and Lion Server, whether it functions exactly like iCloud or not. It's far to early to tell with any degree of certainty exactly what this will look like, but given Jobs' comments about ending the need to access the file system, it won't likely involve any type of file browser.

That means any on-device or over-the-air file storage is probably going to be app-specific. Users will likely have access to files on their device, files associated with their iCloud account, and files on any other Lion Server/WebDAV "file servers" they have access to.

My guess would be that there will be another option added to the Accounts section of the Mail, Contacts, Calendars area of the iOS Settings app. Right now, if you add an account and select Other as the account type, you can add a Mail, LDAP, CardDAV or CalDAV account (or a .ics calendar URL). It isn't hard to imagine that list including a WebDAV account, perhaps named something like File Sharing.

With one or more such accounts enabled, users would likely see app-specific document stores for each account in any app that supports off-device file storage. It isn't clear whether these document stores would have a cloud-sync capability, though I'd lay odds that they would involve some form of permissions -- most likely those configured on the WebDAV server.

Easier iOS deployment with PC activation?

Moving beyond iCloud, iOS 5 represents a major milestone in that Apple has finally decided to allow iOS device activation and setup without using iTunes on a PC or Mac. It's a step that's long overdue.

Does this mean that rolling out large numbers of iOS devices will become easier and more streamlined? Almost definitely. iOS 4 introduced all the needed components for an automated setup process. Either using Apple's existing tools to create configuration profiles or using a third-party mobile device management solution, the process of auto-configuring most of iOS is already possible.

In fact, for employee-owned devices, enrollment and provisioning of security features and user account/device setup can already be almost completely automated. The Achilles' heel has been that new devices must be activated in iTunes before any setup -- automated or not, tethered or over the air -- can even begin.

Although Apple didn't demo the setup process, I would imagine that there will be some type of option for auto-configuration. This may be something explicit that all users see, like a configuration server address field with a skip option, or it may be something more discrete -- after selecting a Wi-Fi network and authenticating during setup, iOS may scan the network for a management server and enroll the device automatically.

Most likely, Apple will offer a combination of options so that an organization can completely configure company-owned devices like iPads while also supporting more limited auto-setup options for personal devices like iPhones. In that latter case, the user would obviously play some role in the process.

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