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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Of course, this alone doesn't resolve some of the challenges involved in providing users with third-party apps related to their work. Unless Apple is planning to take the wraps off an enterprise volume licensing solution for the App Store (not likely), this will remain a fly in the ointment. It is worth noting that Apple has taken some early steps in this direction for educational institutions, so something along these lines is certainly plausible.

iOS 5's lock screen and security

Earlier, I touched on potential security concerns introduced by iCloud that could apply to PCs and Macs in an organization as well as to iOS devices. One area of concern with iOS 5 has nothing to do with iCloud; it involves the new lock screen.

In every iOS release to date, you couldn't do anything from the lock screen besides view a handful of often generic notifications, unlock the device, use it as a digital picture frame (iPad-only), or make an emergency 911 call (iPhone-only). That's pretty limited -- and pretty secure. Pair those limitations with a good passcode policy and automatic/remote wipe, and there's not much to worry about.

iOS 5 makes that lock screen more useful and interactive. Notifications are listed in the lock screen (useful) and you can interact with the app that issued the notification -- listening to a voicemail, for example. That allows someone more access than just making an emergency phone call. Apple hasn't yet been clear on the level of interaction that will be possible with nonsystem apps directly from the lock screen, but it opens the door for corporate information to be divulged even with a passcode policy in place. Even if it's just hearing a voicemail, that's troubling.

Similarly, the camera can now be accessed while a device is locked, without entering a passcode. This is less troubling, since only snapping photos is supported. You can't access existing images or send new snapshots. But again, there's some cause for concern, since it provides unauthenticated access to a locked device. One scenario that came immediately to mind involves an employee who surreptitiously takes incriminating photos of some sort using a co-worker's iPhone. The employee then reports his co-worker for stealing company data, the iPhone is searched.... You get the drift.

I'll admit these aren't the biggest concerns, but they are situations that I hope Apple addresses using extensions to the existing device management capabilities.

Scratching the surface

One thing seems clear after this year's WWDC keynote: We haven't seen everything that's coming. Apple was very clear to note that we saw demos of only 10 of the hundreds of features in iOS 5 and in Lion. With a huge number of user features being rolled out this year, along with an incredible number of new APIs for developers (1,500-plus for iOS 5 alone), I think it's clear that Apple still has some tricks up its sleeve.

For enterprise customers, tricks and surprises are rarely good things, but that's the way Apple works. And like it or not, Apple is a driving force in today's mobile industry and in the so-called consumerization of IT. That said, I'm optimistic that these will be largely good surprises.

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 Peachpit.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 © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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