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Apple and the enterprise: A complicated relationship

Ryan Faas | Aug. 21, 2013
It's been one step forward, two steps back over the past 15 years for Apple and enterprise customers.

This streamlined approach was part of a new form of OS X Server setup and administration. For small organizations or Mac-centric workgroups at a large company, Apple introduced simplified management by way of a new tool called Server Preferences. It allowed users with limited technical skills to set up and manage a server running a subset of the most commonly used business services: file and printer sharing, email and chat, websites and wikis, backup and VPN access.

This approach showed that Apple was willing to work with existing enterprise technologies. Specifically, it showed that Apple was happy to leave enterprise identity in the hands of Active Directory. And it marked one of the first instances of Apple marketing an enterprise product, in this case, Leopard Server, directly to users rather than to IT shops. That approach has been viewed as fueling the success of iOS devices -- and the BYOD trend -- in business.

Though it wasn't obvious at the time, Apple was also the beginning to refocus OS X Server as a small business solution rather than an enterprise server OS.

The iPhone before it was enterprise-ready
While Leopard Server was quietly changing Apple's approach to the enterprise, the original iPhone -- clearly not an enterprise product -- was released. A year later, in 2008, Apple began to give the iPhone some enterprise chops. In addition to launching the iPhone 3G and the App Store, which would revolutionize smartphone software development across the board, Apple included two important capabilities in what was then called iPhone OS 2. The first wassupport for Exchange Active Sync. This allowed access to key Exchange features, including push notifications; the enforcement of a handful of security policies through Exchange; and the ability to remotely wipe lost or stolen iPhones.

The second change was configuration profiles. These XML files, which could be created from scratch or by using the iPhone Configuration Utility, were the first method Apple offered for IT departments to pre-configure user iPhones, provision them with security certificates, and impose a range of restrictions on what a user could do with a managed iPhone. The process of deploying configuration profiles was cumbersome because they either needed to be installed by hand, emailed to users, or hosted on an company's intranet -- not an ideal solution to iPhone management. Seen through the lens of a BlackBerry-dominated enterprise, the Apple process looked crude and resource intensive. But it was a beginning and one that foreshadowed the iPhone as an enterprise device.

iOS 4, mobile management and third-party solutions
Three months after releasing the iPad in 2010, Apple shipped iOS 4 -- it was the most significant iOS upgrade yet from an enterprise perspective. iOS 4 answered many of the enterprise IT complaints about the iPhone and iPad. In addition to the basic Exchange policy support introduced two years earlier, Apple unveiled broad security and device management capabilities.


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