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Apple demonstrated it understands the changing dynamics of enterprise mobility in iOS 8, delivering noteworthy improvements in application and data management.
With iOS 8, enterprises can build robust business apps to help employees streamline their workflow and improve productivity. The latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating system also enhances security with expanded passcode protection for native and third-party apps.
App management and security in iOS 8
Apple's iOS 8 improves on basic mobile application management (MAM). Administrators can now control iCloud syncing and document access for specific apps, while, similarly, they can manage access to third-party storage services. Another new feature lets admins allow or disable Touch ID on an app-by-app basis, while, additionally, IT now has the option to prevent Spotlight -- Apple's system-wide search feature -- from including Internet search results.
IT can also now query a device to determine its associated iTunes account. This can be useful because if a user has changed the Apple ID they're using on that device, it would prevent IT managing and installing apps and work documents via the volume licensing feature included in Apple's Volume Purchasing Program.
The new OS also introduces the concept of managed domains, which is kind of like MDM extended into the Internet. This concept allows admins to identify a set of websites and specify that files downloaded from those designated URLs can only be opened with certain apps that fall under MDM control.
Apple also reinforced security as part of its new iOS mobile app management approach. IT can now prevent temporary users from changing application passwords or inadvertently wiping company data. Administrators can apply these features to third-party apps and some native apps, like Calendar, Contacts, Messages and Reminders.
In addition, iOS now supports enabling Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (S/MIME) encryption on individual messages in the Mail app. People who receive an S/MIME message can be more confident in the identity of the sender and that they're receiving the exact message as it was originally sent. That feature is especially important to organizations in regulated industries where communications are often governed by laws, standards and regulations.
Developing iOS 8 apps
One of the most exciting advancements in iOS mobile app management is the over 4,000 application programming interfaces (APIs) Apple introduced. These APIs will make it easier than ever for enterprises with developers on staff to implement custom apps that meet their security, management and productivity needs.
There are too many new development features to go through them all, but several should pique the interest of IT. Here's an example: iOS 8 introduces a networking framework for creating content-filtering tools. With content filtering, IT can prevent access to inappropriate websites and put apps in line with company compliance standards and regulations.
The new APIs also make it possible to customize apps to share certain services with other apps. For example, a developer could add in an extension that integrates with Safari or Mail. By incorporating iOS 8's app-to-app collaboration into an existing MAM strategy, IT can eliminate a step or two from most tasks completed on a mobile device, thereby simplifying employee workflows.
Apple has also added document provider APIs to iOS 8, making it possible for apps to access documents on in-house file servers or with cloud service providers. In addition, the iOS development platform now includes an API for incorporating Touch ID fingerprint scanning into custom apps to authenticate users and authorize access to data, services, and network and cloud resources.
Working with iOS 8
Apple has traditionally locked down the iOS environment and native apps to maximize stability and security. However, the extensibility features Apple introduced in iOS 8 might create security risks and management challenges where before there were none. The new extensibility makes it easier for third-party apps to work in collaboration with native apps, which Apple prevented as a security measure in past versions of iOS. The new operating system has yet to be fully tested, but opening up the coding and native app environment could present different vulnerabilities for IT to contend with.
It's still too early in the OS lifecycle to know the precise security implications, but most IT departments will find the abundance of new iOS mobile app management features to be a fair tradeoff. It's clear that Apple is cognizant of the shift toward managing and securing applications and their data, and IT departments should be mostly content with their mobile app management options in iOS 8.