What's new for mobile management in iOS 6?

Credit: Macworld

With the release of iOS 6 today, Apple has divided up the new mobile management capabilities for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. The way it divided these features is squarely across the different needs/demands of BYOD environments compared to corporate-owned or liable devices. In doing so, Apple illustrated that it is more plugged into its business customers' needs and is more enterprise-aware than many IT leaders and professionals might think.

Apple delivered a slim set of new iOS 6 management options for mobile management vendors and IT professionals as a whole. Here are some of the new capabilities:

  • Set the device wallpaper for the lock screen and/or home screen
  • Prevent recent contacts (the kind that mail apps include in auto-complete features)from syncing to the mail server
  • Disable Shared Photo Stream - a step up from iOS 5's disabling of a personal Photo Stream
  • Disable Passbook from appearing on the screen when the device is locked
  • Automatically remove configuration profiles and their management settings on a certain date or after a given period of time.

These are nice updates, and some have security implications, but there's nothing earth-shattering or revolutionary.

Beyond that standard set of options, Apple did build out more robust capabilities. But there's a catch: these additional management options are only available to devices that are configured in a supervised manner using Apple's free Apple Configurator.

Apple Configurator is an iOS deployment and management tool that Apple released this spring along with the latest iPad. It's a rather hands-on tool that lets an organization deploy iOS devices complete with a selection of apps (volume licensed, free, and internal to a company) and management settings and restrictions.

Configurator works well as a deployment and management solution for small organizations, and can serve as a deployment tool integrated with more advanced over-the-air mobile management systems. Where it really excels is streamlining managed iOS deployment, handling app licensing at a business level (complete with the ability to reclaim licenses), setting up shared device programs, and setting up non-personal devices -- such as point-of-sale terminals, in-flight entertainment systems, or digital concierge systems.

The one common theme in Apple Configurator's handful of workflows is that they are intended for company-owned and managed devices. They aren't really appropriate for BYOD devices. That seems to be a distinct design choice based on the way Configurator is designed to protect BYOD user privacy if the software is used in a BYOD context.

This remains true with the new iOS 6 management capabilities that require Configurator. These new options aren't really appropriate to personally owned devices because they are too restrictive or specific to certain needs. For instance, administrators can:

  • Disable Game Center and iBookstore
  • Set iBookstore content rating restrictions
  • Disable iMessage
  • Prevent installation of certificates or unmanaged configuration profiles
  • Lock down devices to one app with App Lock and disable the home button
  • Force all device network traffic through a global HTTP proxy.

In separating these different use cases, the security and management functionality that they require, and the mechanisms used to meet those requirements, Apple is illustrating that it understands the breadth of its business and enterprise customer base -- from the personally owned iPhones used in a BYOD environment to the appliance-style uses of healthcare and field service work to the kiosk needs of retail to the concierge requirements of travel and hospitality. More importantly, it's devising solutions that respond to each of those customer bases.

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