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iOS 8: “A huge hit in the enterprise” with new features for management, productivity and security

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By Lanier Norville, AirWatch by VMware

During yesterday’s keynote session at WWDC, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi called iOS “a huge hit in the enterprise,” noting the breadth of iOS-tailored enterprise apps, as well as enterprise manageability features Apple has added to the operating system over the years. Throughout the conference, it has become clear Apple’s enterprise mobility focus is only picking up steam with its latest release.

Federighi noted that 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies are already using iOS. In addition to a new SDK that includes more than 4,000 APIs enterprise app developers can leverage, iOS 8 introduces new management, productivity and security features that might just help win over the other 2 percent.

But beyond what Federighi listed in the “enterprise” section of yesterday’s keynote, dozens of new features in iOS 8 will appeal to users at home and at work, as well as to enterprise app developers and IT. Here’s a rundown of the key features iOS 8 introduces that enterprise stakeholders need to know.

Security

iOS 8 offers several new security features targeted at enterprise customers. According to the iOS 8 preview page, “the enterprise-grade security technologies built into iOS are even more powerful in iOS 8.”

Expanded data protection comes in the form of passcode protection of all the major data types (including all third-party apps as well as native calendar, contacts, mail, messages, notes and reminders).

Per message S/MIME allows users to sign and encrypt individual messages for finer control over mail encryption.

New device restrictions in iOS 8 include the ability to prevent users from adding their own restrictions or erasing their devices (see more in the “Management” section below).

Always-on VPN will be available in iOS 8. Users won’t need to manually reconnect to their company’s VPN every time they need to access it.

Content filtering APIs will enable third-party networking (VPN) developers to create tools to help ensure users don’t have access to inappropriate content, whether users access online content through a browser or in an app.

Certificate-support for SSO in iOS 8 will allow the use of certificate-based single sign-on for users to authenticate to enterprise apps, meaning users will be able to switch between enterprise apps without having to enter their passwords.

Productivity

Enterprise users will be excited about new productivity features that iOS introduces, particularly with native Mail and Calendar apps.

In the iOS Mail app, users will be able to mark messages as read or unread or flag them for follow-up with a swipe. Designating individual mail threads as VIP will help track updates to the conversation. All VIP threads can be shown together in a custom mailbox. Users can also mark external email addresses as red. The automatic reply message process will also be simplified for Exchange users, who with iOS 8 will be able to set automatic reply messages directly from their iOS devices.

In Calendar, users will now be able to see colleagues’ availability for meetings, though users will have the option to mark certain events as private. Apple also says it will be easier to create recurring calendar events, comment and use the lookup function within Calendar. And users can email meeting attendees directly from Calendar if they’re running late.

Device Continuity

With a new feature set called “Handoff,” Apple is enabling users to work seamlessly among their iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite devices. Continuity, which Federighi touched on repeatedly in yesterday’s keynote, is perhaps the most central theme among all the software updates announced yesterday. On the UI end, continuity enables users to pick up on one device where they left off on another, as devices “hand off” email drafts or documents depending on what the user is doing. And enhanced AirDrop support between iOS and OS X will let iOS users transfer files to and from a Mac even without an Internet connection. Peer-to-peer AirPlay discovery and playback make it easier to stream content or mirror the display of an iOS or OS X device on a nearby Apple TV, whether or not the devices are connected to the same network.

The device continuity feature set implies that Apple is establishing continuity between its hardware and software, a small feature change that could have a major impact on the way people work. Not only will devices now be aware of the other devices around them,  but notifications, calls and texts (regardless of the OS the sender is using) will now display on connected iOS and Mac devices.

Management

IT administrators and enterprise users alike will benefit from the manageability enhancements Apple is adding to iOS 8, which are designed to simplify both management and the user experience of working on a managed device.

Device names can be set remotely from the administrative console.

Administrators can prevent users from adding their own restrictions in the Settings menu on the device.

Administrators can also disable users’ ability to locally erase, reset or wipe devices. This feature effectively closes the loop on the Device

Enrollment Program — with DEP, users can’t remove MDM and with iOS 8, users will not be able to remove content or device-level settings, which will help make shared devices easier to manage.

New queries give administrators more oversight from the management console – like the last time a device was backed up to iCloud, which could be the deciding factor between a device-level or enterprise-level wipe.

A new device management UI, both in device settings and during the enrollment process, make understanding the impact of MDM easier and more transparent for users.

Administrators will also be able to manage Safari downloads, books and PDFs (see more in the Content section below).

App Development

Apple’s press release called iOS 8 “the biggest developer release since the App Store was announced,” and for good reason. iOS 8 represents a major step toward enabling developers to integrate third-party apps seamlessly into the native experience. The new software development kit (SDK) includes more than 4,000 new developer APIs that give developers of iOS apps more power than ever to make their apps function with both native features and third-party apps alike. With iOS 8, Apple is recognizing how many of its users rely on apps to get work done. And with the new API set, Apple is enabling them to get it done faster.

To ensure apps equipped with all those new features are released free of bugs, Apple is expanding TestFlight in iOS 8 to give developers a more comprehensive beta testing program. TestFlight in iOS 8 will allow developers to create a list of approved testers to which they can deploy an initial version of the app. Testers can then submit bugs to the developer as they find them.

Extensibility, an inter-app communication system for apps, may be the most exciting new feature set for enterprise developers. ‘Extensions’ let developers add features to the share-sheet of other third-party or native apps. Extensibility unlocks new possibilities for iOS developers, making it easier for them to build app-to-app collaboration into their apps. Extensibility also introduces a simplified UI for users, making it easier and faster to work in multiple apps at once. For example, users won’t have to jump from their email app to their photo editing app to edit a photo they’ve just attached to an email — with extensibility, photo-editing features will appear alongside the photo within the email. AirWatch looks forward to leveraging iOS 8′s extensibility features to improve the UI of AirWatch suite’s existing app-to-app collaboration capability.

A Notification Center widget enables developers to include a notification extension in their apps, so notifications previously limited to an app can now be displayed at the device level. For example, a user could double-check the time of his or her next calendar appointment or read a new email from the Notification Center, without having to open the enterprise app.

Third-party keyboards take the Notification Center widget a step further – the keyboard API enables developers to give users a way to respond to app notifications at the device level. For example, a user can be notified of a comment left on a document in an enterprise app, read the comment, and respond, all from the Notification Center and without having to close the app they are using when the notification pops up.

CloudKit is a set of APIs that makes it easier for app developers to include cloud components in their mobile apps. That means developers won’t have to use third-party solutions like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform or Amazon Web Services to add support for features like CloudKit authentication, search and notification to their apps.

TouchID integration will enable third-party developers to require users to authenticate using the fingerprint sensor. AirWatch looks forward to incorporating TouchID into AirWatch apps to give enterprises the option to add an additional authentication method and an extra layer of security for protecting enterprise content.

Content

The biggest content-related news at WWDC yesterday was iCloud Drive, an enhanced version of iCloud that enables Apple users to access and manage all their content centrally, from corporate documents to media files and photos. The cloud storage solution will enable users to save and sync folders and files online and across Mac, iOS and Windows devices, though IT administrators will be able to disable the use of iCloud Drive on managed devices. 

Document Provider APIs will make it easy for developers to create seamless access to corporate documents. Users will be able to access documents stored on corporate file servers directly from third-party content apps. So if an enterprise develops an app that can access corporate file servers, such as an app for logging billable hours or filling sales orders, users will be able to get to the document they need directly from a third-party editing or collaboration app, such as AirWatch Secure Content Locker.

IT departments can restrict the opening of documents downloaded from enterprise domains using Safari to certain apps, a control which can help IT ensure sensitive documents don’t end up in unsecured file sharing apps. IT can also control which apps can open documents from iCloud Drive and ensure documents are only saved in designated repositories. With this feature, Apple is offering much more granular management of content, enabling administrators to tag a download as managed content based on where it is coming from.

iBooks, ePub, and PDF documents can now be automatically pushed through MDM to user devices. Rather than prompting users to download materials, administrators will be able to ensure user devices are equipped with specific content, without any interaction from the user. 

Compatibility and Availability

iOS 8 is compatible with iPhone 4s and newer; fifth-generation iPod Touch and iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air and iPad mini.

AirWatch by VMware plans to support all the new enterprise features of iOS 8. To learn about the specifics of AirWatch support of iOS 8, visit the AirWatch blog when the software is publicly available.

3 thoughts on “iOS 8: “A huge hit in the enterprise” with new features for management, productivity and security

  1. AJ

    Excellent article. Thanks for the write up. Do we know if Apple also included collapsible folders with Exchange/Airwatch connectivity?

  2. Lanier Norville

    Thanks, AJ. So far, the only additional feature Apple has mentioned for Exchange users on iOS 8 is the ability to set automatic reply messages. The AirWatch Inbox app for iOS, which can give enterprise users secure access to their Exchange inboxes, does let you collapse folders.

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