iOS 7 preview: Enterprise enhancements means more for big business

iOS 7 continues Apple's tradition of consistently improving and extending Enterprise support for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Previous years introduced such basic, core functionality as Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, and hardware encryptions.This year offers more specific additions that, never-the-less, might make a big difference to big business, both those who manage devices in IT, and who use them, in corporations and SMB alike. Today's Enterprise day on Talk Mobile 2013, so let's talk iOS 7 and Enterprise...

Here's what Apple has to say about the new business features in iOS 7, and what it might mean to all of us:

iOS 7 provides enhanced security, powerful new ways to configure and deploy devices at scale, and features to help businesses purchase, distribute, and manage apps with ease. Features including per app VPN, enterprise single sign on, App Store license management, and new mobile device management (MDM) configuration options are just some of the new capabilities in iOS 7 that provide more for organizations of all sizes.

Open in Management means IT can control which apps can open which documents/attachments. For example, if you get a work PDF, your company can make sure only their approved app can open that PDF. They can also make sure that, if you get personal document, you can't open it in the company's app. Though it doesn't sound anywhere nearly as encompassing as something like BlackBerry Balance, it does sound like a good start towards compartmentalizing corporate and personal data.

Per-app VPN allows IT to control VPN access for corporate apps and data, while excluding non-corporate/personal apps and data from the tunnel. That means, for example, you can connect to the company internet securely, but your private web browsing doesn't go through HQ.

App Store license management changes the way apps purchased in volume work. Previously, companies could buy a ton of apps and basically give them to their employees. But, if an employee transferred or left, and no longer needed the app, they kept it anyway and the company had to buy it again. Now, the company can retain ownership, revoke an app from an employee that no longer needs it, and give it to another employee who does. It also keeps both the company's account, and the employees iTunes account separate and distinct, so install and re-download work on device, but control remains with IT.

Apple has made Mobile Device Management (MDM) faster with iOS 7. Company-controlled devices can be enrolled automatically, configured with settings and policies more quickly, and get iPhones and iPads in user hands more easily. Over-the-air (OTA) supervision has likewise been improved. New MDM configuration options also allow third-party solutions greater functionality under iOS 7, including app management, custom fonts, accessibility options, AirPrint, and even AirPlay destinations. So, basically, more can be managed on-device by the remote administrator.

Single sign-on (SSO) means people can log in to their enterprise accounts once, and have that login work for all their enterprise and App Store apps. (Think login into Twitter on iOS and having all Twitter apps authorize based on that login.)

Third-party app data protection uses the existing iOS Passcode lock to secure corporate data, encrypting it with a strong, unique key. That means IT doesn't have to worry about securing data separately. If an iPhone or iPad is rebooted, the encryption is enabled until the passcode is entered.

Caching Server 2, part of OS X Mavericks Server, means people don't have to go all the way to iTunes - to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store - to get updates and new content. It's all waiting for them on the in-house system.

And, of course, all the improvements made to the rest of iOS 7 will make life for enterprise users easier and better as well.

Obviously, there's a lot more to the new business features in iOS 7, but we'll have to wait until the fall to cover them completely. For now, if you work in IT managing iOS devices, or you use an iPhone or iPad subject to MDM control, let me know what you think of the iOS 7 features shown off so far, and how they compare to Microsoft and BlackBerry's options.