New Apple iOS 4 APIs expand iPhone device management

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But the third-party applications offer the ability to add new functions. For example, with iOS, an enterprise can now write an iPhone app for its own users, and distribute the app on its own, with what Apple calls an Enterprise Development License, without having to connect to Apple's iTunes, via a PC or Mac, and going through the App Store. MobileIron will manage those software downloads and updates. The server can create an inventory of all apps, and their version numbers, on each iPhone.

MobileIron also offers a feature that can alert iPhone users and IT departments when the iPhone smartphone is subject to international roaming charges. Based on the alert, users can takes steps to minimize roaming charges, or IT can block the phone from using wireless data.

To support iOS 4, MobileIron will be launching three modules: ZeroTouch Security, which enables IT to apply security policies to the iPhone; application discovery, which lets IT inventory and update iPhone applications; and the international roaming expense monitoring. All three will be rolled into the core MobileIron product during Q3. The pricing, which starts at $4 per device per month, will remain unchanged.

Sybase Afaria also has an iPhone client, but like MobileIron, it's also not needed for the server to make use of the new iOS management service.

Afaria manages the over-the-air download and update of enterprise iPhone apps directly to the handset. The Enterprise Development License associates a provisioning profile with each home-built iPhone app. Afaria can disable an app by revoking that profile, according to Mark Jordan, Afaria senior product manager.

The server software now can bypass Exchange or Apple's MobileMe service to remotely lock and wipe an iPhone. A critical feature for enterprise network administrators is the ability now to verify that iPhone security policies have actually been installed and are working. "We can put a strong password on the device and I can query it to confirm the device is now password-protected," says Jordan.

Afaria has tweaked its Access Control Utility for the new OS release. "We can check access policies, and determine whether an iPhone has been jailbroken," Jordan says. "If it has, we can block it."

The new iPhone management service exposed a great deal more information to Afaria’s asset tracking and management capabilities. Previously, this information was limited to bare bones, such as the installed version of the OS. Now, Afaria can collect the phone’s serial number, model number and name, firmware information and other data, such as the MAC address, the carrier network, the actual voice phone number, and whether data roaming is turned on or off.

That data enables more fine-grained policies to be set, according to Jordan. "You can look at the RAM capacity on the device for a new app download," he says. "You can require a passcode and hardware encryption, for example. If these aren’t present, then the device can be blocked from accessing email, for example."

Sybase will launch the Afaria iOS 4 beta test in July, with general release for sometime later in the third quarter. The new capabilities will be introduced in some combination of add-on modules, for which there will be separate charges. Pricing will be announced closer to the release date.

AirWatch, of Atlanta, also is incorporating support for the new iOS 4 APIs into its Mobile Device Management application. As with the other two applications, administrators create policies on a central server and distribute them to the handsets.

The software handles large-scale app deployment by a combination of what the vendor calls a "roll-based security architecture," the ability to group devices, and managing them in bulk.

AirWatch MDM is a Web-based application, that can be used as a hosted service, deployed on a corporate server behind the firewall, or as a dedicated hardware appliance.

The updated software will be available in July.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World." Twitter: @johnwcoxnww | Email: | Blog RSS feed

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This story, "New Apple iOS 4 APIs expand iPhone device management" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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