Amidst all the hubbub of the iPhone 7 at Apple's event today, the company also announced a release date for iOS 10: Sept. 13. Apple's first double-digit mobile OS will ship with a bevy of new features and apps for consumers, but there are also major implications for the scores of businesses that rely on Apple devices in the enterprise, from collaboration and connectivity to mobile device management (MDM) and security.
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Today's event was hardware-focused, so Tim Cook didn't spend much time on iOS 10 features. He also made no mention of business, productivity, and security features, but there are a litany. Apple released a slew of them in iOS 9 last year, and even more in the big iOS 9.3 update, including customized mobile home screen layouts for IT administrators, and more granular enterprise mobility management (EMM) controls around the new supervised mode, app blacklisting and device override, and notifications.
The business focus in iOS 10 shifts toward much better device interoperability between iOS and Mac devices, plus another helping of expanded EMM functionality. Even more importantly, there are redesigned user experiences (UX) across native business voice-over-IP (VoIP) and private branch exchange (PBX) and collaboration apps through Apple's enterprise iOS partnership with Cisco.
A great place to prep for new business features and make sure your system is prepared is Apple's IT Checklist for iOS 10. IT admins should also at least skim the iOS Security Guide running down all the app, network, and system security, data encryption, e-commerce and mobile payments, and MDM controls in iOS 9.3 and beyond. Here are some of the enterprise features in iOS 10 that could have the most tangible impact on how your employees operate on mobile devices.
Big-Impact Business Features in iOS 10
EMM provider MobileIron recently published a white paper on what enterprises need to know about iOS 10; 81 percent of devices in the enterprise run Apple's mobile OS, according to the company's latest Mobile Security and Risk Review report. Sean Ginevan, Senior Director of Strategy at MobileIron, explained how iOS is evolving into what the company calls a "complete enterprise platform."
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"A complete enterprise platform requires three things: 1) a great end-user experience including a robust ecosystem of apps, 2) protection for corporate data wherever it resides, and 3) it must be simple to deploy and manage across the enterprise at scale," said Ginevan. "Apple has achieved number one. It works with EMM vendors like MobileIron to support number two. We look forward to Apple's continued investment in the Device Enrollment Program (DEP), Appconfig.org, and its other enterprise programs to further simplify secure enterprise deployment and management."
Below are some of the key enterprise features in iOS 10:
- All New, All Different Siri: Apple knew Siri was in need of a major overhaul to catch up with Alexa, Cortana, and the gang, and in iOS 10 that means opening up Siri to developers with the SiriKit application programming interface (API) to connect other apps to the personal assistant. For enterprises, this means IT can integrate mission-critical applications and many of the collaboration, productivity, and other business apps used by employees with some smarter voice-activated help.
- AppConfig Community: Apple announced that iOS 10 will support AppConfig, the EMM standards and best practices the community announced at Mobile World Congress in February. This gives iOS developers an accepted framework and open resources to build a managed app-configuration policy.
- Auto Unlock: New iOS 10 controls allow users to unlock a Mac using an Apple Watch, without typing in a password. This is a macOS Sierra feature, but iOS 10 security upgrades patch some security vulnerabilities, now requiring the Apple Watch to be on the user's wrist and within three meters of the Mac to unlock it; otherwise it will require a PIN.
- Raise to Wake: The new raise-to-wake feature is a boon for consumers to be sure, but a new iOS 10 lockscreen that wakes up and surfaces notifications the moment you pick your phone up? That's a business-productivity improvement that immediately shaves a few seconds off any mobile task.
- Touch-and-Go: Apple has extended 3D Touch to more apps like Calendar and Stocks for quick-glance information with a single tap.
- Universal Clipboard: In simplifying data and content syncing across Mac and iOS devices, the new Universal Clipboard finally eliminates the need for AirDrop. Available on devices running macOS Sierra, the clipboard automatically uploads text, photos, or videos to iCloud to be copied to another device.
- Unsecured Wi-Fi Network Warning: This is a subtle feature addition giving you a security recommendation notification when connecting your iOS device to an unsecure network that could expose network traffic and leave your organization vulnerable if you're using an enterprise-configured device.
- Visual Voicemail: Improved voice recognition in iOS 10 automatically transcribes all received voicemails, viewable as text.
- VPN IKEv2 EAP-only Mode: This mouthful of a virtual private network (VPN) feature finally allows employees to access corporate VPNs from their iOS devices. Hallelujah.
- Wet Lightning Cable Warning: Everyone knows water damage is death for an iPhone—one of the main reasons Apple has been chasing the elusive waterproof device—but a simple new notification will give your IT department one less problem to worry about. In iOS 10, a user will receive a "disconnect Lightning accessory" warning when plugging in a wet cable.
Check out Apple's full iOS 10 preview for more. In spite of the expanded enterprise capabilities, Ginevan said iOS still has work to do. One of the biggest requests MobileIron has gotten from enterprise customers is the need for better data separation in "prosumer" apps—apps available in the App Store that can be used for personal and work tasks.
"The challenge today is that the iOS Managed Apps security framework embedded in iOS allows enterprises to protect their app data, but assumes that all data stored in the app is for work, when in fact some of it might be for personal use," said Ginevan. "Some app vendors try to address this issue themselves by implementing proprietary, app-specific security controls. This is not a scalable approach, and it results in less app choice and more deployment complexity for IT. Other operating system security frameworks, like Android for Work, allow the enterprise to protect just the enterprise data in the app, which provides a consistent security model regardless of the apps chosen."
Apple and Cisco's Revamped Mobile Enterprise
Beyond the features above, arguably the biggest enterprise impact in iOS 10 comes from Apple's ongoing partnership with Cisco, which has three main components: Cisco's "Fast Lane" to give network priority to business apps, unified enterprise communications and business VoIP, and team collaboration functionality. Jonathan Rosenberg, Vice President and CTO of Collaboration at Cisco, gave PCMag a rundown on how the Apple/Cisco partnership will play out in iOS 10.
- Fast Lane: "Fast Lane is a lot more about policy than anything else. The problem we're trying to solve is people bringing their iPhone to the office and it ends up on the guest network even if they're using a mission-critical app written by IT," said Rosenberg. "With Fast Lane, an enterprise admin can configure these apps to receive priority treatment on the network."
- Business Communication: "How do you make your iPhone a first-class business phone in the office? Right now employees go outside the enterprise PBX. They're not leveraging VoIP. Cisco Spark is one of the first application built on top of the new Callkit API," said Rosenberg. "The biggest problem it solves is that if you receive an incoming call and your phone is locked, you have to tap the phone, unlock it, wait for the app to launch…that's now been fixed. With apps like Cisco Spark you can swipe to answer and unlock and jump right into a call."
- Collaboration Apps and VoIP: The partnership also extends to apps like Cisco Jabber and Cisco WebEx for business videoconferencing. Rosenberg said enterprise VoIP apps have struggled on mobile largely due to convenience, but through the partnership he said the big benefits will be in cost savings and better compliance. "You can now use the native iOS interface, and you'll effectively be using the enterprise VoIP app. Same for outbound calling—dial from the address book and that will now launch you into a Cisco Spark VoIP call," said Rosenberg.
"What does the enterprise get? They're going to save some money," he added. "All those minutes of employees at their desks making calls, those are going to start turning into VoIP calls. It's great for international calling, and makes Wi-Fi calling easier on the road.
"The other big benefit will really be around compliance. Those calls will now go through your corporate PBX and give you things like call detail record in the event of a data breach. But outside of IT, it's about putting compliance all in the same place. Industries like finance have legal requirements to block certain users, which they were never able to enforce with iPhone calling. Now they can."