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Microsoft moves fast to offer zero-day EMM support for iOS 11

Microsoft moves fast to offer zero-day EMM support for iOS 11

Apple's new mobile OS has added key enterprise-friendly features that could make it a darling for business users and are already enticing EMM vendors like Microsoft to support.

Credit: Apple

Wasting no time, Microsoft has announced its online enterprise mobility management (EMM) suite, InTune, supports Apple's new iOS 11 mobile platform.

Apple announced on tuesday that  iOS 11 will be available be available on Sept. 19. It has been in public beta since mid-summer.

Microsoft began releasing developer and beta builds of its EMM cloud service a few months ago, and said  its Intune development team has been working to ensure that all of its mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) tools will work seamlessly on iOS 11.

"As you plan for this update within your organizations, you can have the confidence that all existing Intune and hybrid (Configuration Manager and Intune) capabilities will continue to work as expected when users upgrade to iOS 11," Microsoft said in a blog post. "The only thing you need to do is ensure your users update to the latest version of the Company Portal, which is available now in the App Store."

Because iOS 11 is more enterprise-friendly, it is considered a bigger target for EMM vendors than past releases that, while offering the same capabilities, were more difficult to use.

In the past year, 82% of the work done on mobile devices in the enterprise was performed using iOS devices; the remaining 18% of mobile activities were done on Android devices, according to new research from file synchronization software vendor Egnyte.

"With this version, basic features that should have been there for a long time are there now," said Kevin Burden, vice president of Mobility Research & Data Strategy at 451 Research.

With iOS 11, Apple added a Dock on the iPad that allows as many as 15 apps to be quickly accessible from the home screen or when an application is running; it also added new multi-tasking features that include the ability to swipe between running apps – a function similar to a macOS Mission Control feature.

ios 11 devices apple Apple

The updated mobile platform also offers a system-wide drag-and-drop feature that enables users to perform tasks, such as grabbing data from an Excel spreadsheet and dropping it into a PowerPoint presentation.

While previous versions of the iOS allowed similar functionality, those tasks required multiple steps to achieve, and the complicated steps needed didn't play well with a mobilized workforce.

"With older versions of iOS, you could mobilize back-end applications onto it, but having the applications there is just one step. Being able to navigate, manipulate and jump around in an application, that's something else," Burden said. "No one wants to cut and paste on a mobile device, but drag-and-drop on a mobile device – that's a lot easier."

Apple also improved the way its iPhone and iPad handle file management by allowing  users to organize data and documents via its new Files app, which is similar to the macOS desktop Finder.

Files in iOS 11 Computerworld

iOS 11's Files app offers a more traditional file finder/viewer for iPad users who need one to manage workflow.

Using iOS 11's Files app, users can store documents in folders, which then become icons – just as they are on a Mac desktop or laptop – and that can be sorted by their size, tags or the date they were modified. Those same File icons can also be organized and deposited in Apple's own iCloud or other online storage services, such as DropBox through the same drag-and-drop feature.

"There's plenty of good technologies out there that basically go unused because they're too difficult for business users to use or they don't operate the way they want them too," Burden said. "I think there's some truth to that when it came to iOS in the enterprise. Everyone had it in their back pocket, but when it came to doing real business-type tasks, it was too cumbersome.

iOS 11 Apple

By pressing and holding briefly on an app's icon in the Dock, you can easily find recent documents.

"So the belief is that users are going to start looking at iOS a little differently and they might start using it more and therefore it better be supported by the various EMM vendors," Burden said. "That is the reason Microsoft believes it must support this."

Regardless of how much better iOS 11 is over iOS 10, however, zero-day support for a major OS is "table stakes" if you're to be taken seriously as an EMM vendor, according to Chris Silva, a research director at Gartner.

"In fact, lacking that support for iOS 10 has been, to us, a red flag for how committed a vendor is to their EMM product," Silva said. "While the balance has been shifting for some time, in many organizations iOS inherited the throne from Blackberry as the corporate-blessed mobile OS, largely because it had consistent MDM controls early-on, which were widely supported across different generations of Apple devices."

Not adding support for iOS would be a deal-breaker in the eyes of corporate buyers of EMM technology, Silva said, and "many, many users are going to upgrade the OS on day 1, [so] the support needs to be there."

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