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03/07/2014

Apple moves to open up enterprise IT channels

Taking a more enterprise-friendly approach

Apple may have reinforced its lead ahead of Android in the enterprise market with the announcement this week of its new program to facilitate enterprise usage of iOS on a larger scale. Among the biggest changes is the Device Enrollment Program, which frees IT from the previous constraints of Apple Configurator of having to physically interact with the devices individually via USB to configure them for MDM in what the firm is calling a “zero-touch effort for IT.” The enrollment program also solves a critical requirement for corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) devices, as IT can now install non-removable MDM profiles. This had previously been a source of concern for IT, as users could remove MDM elements from their iOS devices. In addition to an over-the-air approach that lends itself better to a COPE-style of mobile deployment, Apple has also gained a significant enterprise edge by changing its volume purchase and licensing programs to enable businesses to purchase apps in bulk without the need of a credit card. 

Other changes with the rollout of the Device Enrollment Program lend themselves particularly well for scalable deployment. Among these is the elimination of staging and provisioning processes, which in turn streamlines the process of deployment, as devices can be directly sent to end-users. Additionally, the program moves device enrollment into MDM as part of the setup process, simplifying the enrollment process for employees. All these create a powerful enterprise advantage, especially when paired with the recent changes to its volume purchase program.

The changes are well in line with Tim Cook’s focus on keeping Apple front and center in the enterprise arena. In last month’s quarterly phone call with analysts, the CEO noted that “the enterprise area has huge potential,” citing high percentages of global Fortune 500 companies that use their devices. With the recent FIPS 140-2 certification from the federal government, it stands to reason that the company will continue to integrate enterprise and security as core elements of its product strategy.

Apple’s priorities are still with the consumer

While it’s true that Apple is making considerable progress in taking enterprise concerns into consideration as a more central element in its product development, the fact of the matter is that, at the end of the day, its devices are first and foremost a consumer good. We see these limitations in areas such as OS upgrades and Apple ID. Currently, Apple ID is linked very closely with individual accounts, and while it is possible to create more than one ID per person, this can often become cumbersome given the nature of the ID. As a result, this limits businesses’ ability to share devices and can make COPE somewhat more problematic.

Other issues remain surrounding lifecycle support and control of upgrades. This was certainly the case for iOS7, in that many apps and services became non-compliant with the upgrade. Many firms found that their applications were not ready and had to rely on requesting that employees not upgrade their OS. The lack of control over the timing of upgrades, as well as lifecycle support will remain stumbling blocks for enterprises that are looking to deploy Apple devices as part of their line-of-business mobility strategy.

No longer afraid to use the “e” word

Even though Apple’s priorities remain with consumers, the company is definitely maneuvering into a more explicit relationship with enterprise. By timing its announcements to align with last week’s Mobile World Congress, Apple is definitely presenting a considerable challenge to the competition on the enterprise front. So far, Apple has been able to maintain a considerable market share in this arena primarily through its consumer appeal alone; now that the firm is actively taking enterprise into consideration in product development strategy, Android competitors like Samsung are going to have their work cut out for them to increase their foothold. Meanwhile, Microsoft and BlackBerry are going to have to work all the harder to maintain market share. 

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