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Apple had a big hand in popularizing the BYOD (bring your own device) movement, and now the company is making it easier for enterprises to manage and secure iPads and iPhones in the workplace.
Ahead of iOS 7.1's launch, which is rumored to occur in mid-March, Apple has revamped its website to help businesses get ready for the operating system's new automated mobile device management (MDM) capabilities. A major theme is Apple's progress in easing the deployment of iOS-powered devices for large enterprises.
When it comes to MDM, Apple is playing catch-up. After iOS 7 debuted, the company was criticized for the mobile operating system's underwhelming set of management features for businesses. ABI Research Senior analyst Jason McNicol said the features "were not terribly innovative when compared to the services offered by the EMM/MDM market, while other enhancements have relatively limited functionality."
Meanwhile, Microsoft loomed with mobile offerings that piggybacked on the company's historically IT-friendly Windows management ecosystem. MDM specialists like AirWatch, which was snapped up by VMware for $1.5 billion in January, were picking up the slack by growing their platforms.
Now, Apple is signaling that it's serious about cementing its place in the enterprise.
In the updated business resources section of the company's website, Apple is spotlighting the new over-the-air (OTA) features that enable "hands-free" configuration and management, sparing IT administrators from firing up the company's Configurator tool, which runs on OS X (Macs). "For company-owned devices, IT can automate and lock MDM enrollment and wirelessly supervise devices during initial setup," stated the company.
"And once a device is enrolled in MDM — whether initiated by the user or by IT — settings, apps, and policies can be installed on the device over the air," added Apple.
In another sign that the company is serious about enterprise-grade MDM, the company has published new guides that outline iOS 7's newfound MDM-friendly features. Apple is also urging organizations to enroll in the company's new volume deployment services.
"The Device Enrollment Program (DEP) enables organizations that have purchased iOS devices directly from Apple to easily set up, configure, and supervise devices wirelessly," explained Apple in its iOS Enterprise Deployment Overview (PDF). "With the Device Enrollment Program, all of your devices can be properly configured without the need for staging services that prep devices before users get them."
A dedicated DEP guide (PDF) explains that the new service makes large-scale deployments of the company's mobile devices and PCs "seamless for IT." DEP provides tools that automatically enroll iPhones and iPads into an organization's MDM environment. Other options include the ability to customize the setup assistant for users, allowing them to skip unnecessary steps.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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