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A deep dive into iOS 8 extensions: It's all about new workflows

Ryan Faas | Sept. 18, 2014
Extensions are one of the biggest new features in iOS 8. They allow apps to communicate and share data with each other in ways that haven't been possible in previous iOS versions while at the same time maintaining the app sandboxing functionality that is a core component of iOS security.

This does not mean that employing Apple's managed open in functionality or using more robust containerization tools is going to solve the problem of data leakage, however. As we've seen again and again with mobile and cloud products, today's workers have no problem whatsoever finding their own tools and creating their own workflows if the offerings from IT don't meet their needs or are too hard to use.

Even if an organization employs managed open in to both apps and accounts to control how data can flow on an iOS 8 device, there's little stopping a user from launching Outlook on his or her PC and sending an email with business documents attached to their personal email address — one that cannot be managed or restricted on their device — or using an accessible cloud service on their PC to achieve the same ends.

This isn't really news since it's been a common reality in many organizations for some time, but it is worth reconsidering in light of iOS 8.

The same story, but with a bit more bite

iOS 8 extension types truly bust down the wall separating apps and allow users to create efficient and easy to manage multi-app workflows. That's going to make doing so very attractive regardless of the potential security challenges. If managed apps or containerization become roadblocks to accessing that new level of mobile productivity and efficiency, many users will avoid using them and install alternatives.

This user-first phenomenon has been the heart of the story of mobility, cloud services, and the so-called consumerization of IT. Each new iteration of mobile technology ups the ante, and iOS 8 extensions do it more significantly than any release of iOS to date. IT departments that accept and embrace this reality and work with users rather than simply trying to lock everything down, are the ones most likely to succeed.

In many respects, iOS 8 is both an opportunity and a challenge to rethink IT's role in an organization and to partner with the rest of an organization in developing the best tools possible to enable users while also helping to protect business data.


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