Apple is making enterprise headway with forthcoming changes in iOS 8, but it still has work to do to satisfy all of IT's needs.
Apple has taken steps to address security and management concerns around its mobile operating system, and even devoted a section of its keynote at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference to the enterprise. In iOS 8, IT will have more options than ever for managing Apple devices .
However, there are still pain points for IT that haven't been addressed. While Apple will beef up its iOS 8 capabilities around AirDrop -- the feature that allows sharing of files over a Wi-Fi connection between Apple devices -- it still falls short for some.
With Windows PCs being the dominant desktop choice for almost 91% of the market share, according to May 2014 data from NetMarketShare.com, Apple has ignored an opportunity for AirDrop-style capabilities between Apple devices and Windows PCs, according to Matt Kosht, an IT director at a utility company in Alaska.
Matt KoshtIT director, Alaska utility company
"Why would you miss out on that market?" Kosht asked.
That scenario may not be up to Apple to fix, given the separation between Windows operating systems and the original equipment manufacturers that provide the PC hardware, according to Michael Oh, president and founder of Tech Superpowers, an IT managed service provider and Apple reseller based in Boston.
An open standard would need to be established to allow Apple to integrate better with those devices, and that's not the type of endeavor Apple has taken on in its recent history, Oh said.
"These sort of seamless Mac integrations are part of Apple's core value proposition," Oh said.
Apple is opening up some of its capabilities to outside platforms, with the new iCloud Drive working with Windows 7 or later on PCs. However, no mobile devices besides those running iOS are iCloud-enabled.
Apple could open up its ecosystem in a way similar to competitors like Microsoft and BlackBerry in recent years, according to Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at VDC Research Group in Natick, Massachusetts. Part of that motivation may come from Apple's more open acknowledgement of the enterprise.
"There [has] been very, very consumer-oriented visibility from the company on how they approach the market," Klein said. "[The enterprise focus] was long overdue."
Apple's dominance in the consumer market proves it's doing something right, but it could take a more active approach to address enterprise concerns, according to Kosht.
"From an enterprise angle, if they are going to get serious about it, they are going to have to open this thing up a lot more than they have," he said.
Touch ID sensor presents enterprise opportunity
Apple plans to open up its application programming interface (API) for the Touch ID biometric security feature to third-party developers to use for their own apps. Along with adding passcode capabilities to numerous native applications, iOS 8 should supply IT with many security options.
However, Touch ID hasn't been seen as a second-factor authentication security layer, but rather as an alternative to passcodes. Touch ID is also only available on the latest generation of iPhones and hasn't been added to iPads.
A tablet with built-in two factor authentication would have broad appeal to the enterprise, according to Oh.
"The use of USB keys and that kind of stuff is pretty common in the enterprise with laptops, but once you get into the mobile space, the last thing you want on a tablet is a USB key hanging off it or some kind of physical token you have to plug in somehow," Oh said.
Utilization of the Touch ID API could also give more opportunities to mobile management vendors around security, according to Klein.
Could iCloud Drive be an enterprise headache?
With iCloud Drive coming to iOS 8 and Yosemite, the latest iteration of Mac OS X, users will be able to save files online through the Finder on desktops, including Windows 7 or later.
Yet, iCloud Drive could present challenges for IT similar to those of Dropbox, allowing employees to store company data in unsecured locations.
Other content management and cloud storage systems -- such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, among many others -- have added security features and IT controls in recent months. Control for where the data goes is important for IT managers like Kosht, and questions remain about the enterprise viability of iCloud Drive.
While some of the larger-name cloud storage vendors get bashed for perceived deficiencies, companies like Dropbox have added robust enterprise features, according to Klein.
"That market is one that has such a bright light on it right now," Klein said. "There's such an intense focus on such a wide cast of characters, and now, with Google, Microsoft and Apple in it in their own ways, it's going to be really fascinating to see how this all turns out."
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
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Jake O'Donnell asks:
What enterprise features would you like to see in iOS 8 that aren't there yet?
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