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Why businesses are embracing iOS 7

Joel Mathis | Oct. 8, 2013
If iOS originally snuck in the boardroom's back door and adapted, then iOS 7 strolled confidently in the front door, jammed with new features to help businesses protect their data, encourage intraoffice collaboration, and communicate with customers.

"Security is the enabler of enterprise agility," said Troy Fulton, Tangoe's director of product marketing. "What Apple seems to have done with iOS 7 is they're moving security into the application, so it's app-centric security, not just the device."

For starters, iOS 7's new Per App VPN feature makes it possible for specific apps used and distributed by companies to be configured to automatically connect to the company's virtual private network (VPN) to transmit their data, while a user's personal apps cannot.

iOS 7 also includes features that limit data to third-party apps unless a passcode has been entered and that allow IT technicians to wirelessly configure company-managed apps. According to Apple, companies will soon be able to withdraw an app license from a departing employee and redistribute it to somebody else on the team—saving money (buying one app instead of two) and making it more difficult for a disgruntled worker to carry sensitive data out the door with them.

"If your users change, you typically want the ability to get that license back and redeploy it," said John Herrema, senior vice president of corporate strategy for Good Technology. "That wasn't possible until now. We think that's going to make the App Store more interesting and practical for enterprise use."

Distributing apps has gotten easier, as well. New to iOS 7 is an Enterprise Single Sign-on feature that lets users access their company's whole suite of apps by entering a passcode just once.

Tools for teamwork: Mark Cutler, CEO of Kibits, applauds iOS 7's new AirDrop function, which allows nearby iPhone users to exchange files. That feature helps power his company's app, Collaborate, which encourages team-building and information-sharing in the workplace. Right now, the feature is used mostly for sharing pictures, but Cutler believes it could end up being transformative in the workplace.

"We're all nearby, we're all on iPhones, and we're all running iOS 7," Cutler said. "It's just another mechanism for making collaboration seamless so you and the team can get onto the task at hand."

Widespread adoption: One thing that iOS 7 has going for it—like earlier versions of the OS—is widespread adoption of the latest version among potential users. Some of this is due to technical reasons (iOS easily updates over the air), but it means that businesses don't generally have to deal with users spread out over many versions of the operating system. One estimate suggested that 52 percent of all iOS devices were updated to iOS 7 one week after it was released—and previous versions of iOS had adoption rates of above 90 percent.

Compare that to Android phones, where just 33 percent of users are reportedly using any version of the operating system released within the last year. Supporting only one operating system version makes life easier on an IT department, which otherwise has to watch a growing fragmentation of phones and operating systems.


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