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Will iOS 7 and iCloud changes meet post-PC needs for enterprise users?

John Cox | June 10, 2013
At Apple WWDC, IT groups look for options, users for new classes of apps

One place where the post-PC era is in full swing is the enterprise. And enterprise IT groups will be watching when Apple unveils iOS 7 at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, June 10, to see if the new version improves its fit for business users.

iOS has achieved an astonishing acceptance in the enterprise, and is the basis for most companies' mobile deployments. But increasingly, those iOS deployments are grappling with more complex tasks than email, PDFs, presentations and Web browsing. And in doing so, enterprise IT staff are looking for iOS changes that make the platform better suited to enterprise computing.

Apple is widely expected to show at least a partial redesign of the iOS user interface, creating a more consistent visual syntax and cues. But power users, especially in the enterprise, need more.

To achieve that, the UI changes need to be married with deeper changes that make the OS more capable when dealing with complex, long-durations tasks; and that give IT the ability to somehow fit together Apple's mobile experience with business requirements for manageability and security.

"Apple famously likes to keep tight control over the UI and user experience," says Avi Greengart, research director of consumer devices and platforms, Current Analysis, a Washington, D.C., competitive intelligence consulting firm. "But in doing so it has siloed most of its own apps: they don't share data easily."

A related issue is the way iOS currently handles, or doesn't handle, multi-tasking. "You have a single app that commands your attention at all times," says Greengart. "But if you're bouncing around between tasks, or between related tasks, other mobile operating systems do a better job of moving users between them."

Making it easier for iOS users to handle files and to leverage the platform's multi-tasking capabilities would go a long way toward making iOS more effective in more complex tasks.

Many IT staff are in effect hoping for a subset of features that let them better administer hundreds and thousands of iOS devices. "I would like to see consideration for more enterprise needs such as device management, and [enterprise] app stores, that provide us with greater choice," says Rich Adduci, senior vice president and CIO at Boston Scientific, Marlborough, Mass.

"An Apple-branded full mobile device management [system] would be great, as well as additional APIs for third-party MDM solutions to better manage iOS devices and [bridge] the gap between managing iOS and other platforms," says a technology manager at a leading private university, who requested anonymity because he's not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the institution.

One new API would be one that lets MDM applications "globally restrict cut/copy/paste functions," says James Gordon, vice president of IT for Needham Bank, Needham, Mass. It's a small community bank that relies on iOS as its mobile platform. "This will drive greater adoption and innovation among enterprises that are still on the fence about [iOS] security," Gordon says.


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