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Looking into Enterprise iOS

Big business with small devices

Enterprise Mobility has a lot of benefits, such as improving the efficiency of a company's business processes and their Information Workers alike.

If the term Information Workers is new to you, then a brief explanation is that they are traditional employees using corporate data in their day to day tasks, historically they were chained to the desktop.

Now they are free and can become mobile. This mobile enablement gives a competitive edge to a company and a leading position, using such a forward thinking initiative.

I travel into the City of London every day and have noticed more and more over the last few years the iPhone becoming visibly the 'weapon of choice' of the city worker, rather than having two devices, one the corporate Blackberry and the other the personal iPhone. A lot of companies are allowing their worker to bring their personally owned iPhones into a corporate plan, where the data and voice charges are taken care of by the company after the employee agrees to a usage policy (BYOD). Also I am seeing the chose your own device (CYOD) policy being lead by the Prosumers in the company choosing iOS. In the last half of 2010 I noticed a trend emerging of corporate iPad use, culminating one evening in my train carriage of 4 commuters within meters of each other, using email, games, Numbers and Pages on their iPads. Since then this has increased massively and become the majority in 2011 and it's my opinion that it will continue in 2012!

At the start of 2010 I was walking around the city in my lunch hour and observed the ultimate example of workers that would be unleashed by the iPad. I paused outside of Lloyds of London,  the world's leading specialist insurance market, and observed hordes of worker leaving the building with reams and reams of folders and papers. Now not knowing the processes and legalities involved I could easily imagine the benefits of the iPad. So I was so pleased in September 2010 to see an article from Lloyds, that Lloyds internal IT had joined with three Brokers... Marsh, Cooper Gay and RK Harrison Group to trial the use of iPads in its underwriting room. I am now intrigued how the initial project has gone!

I have been using the iPad now since its launch and mostly in the last 18 months in a specific way. I am not a gamer, I am a part-time browser, but primarily I am a full-time Enterprise user. Here is a set of must have features I believe an Enterprise iPad application should have. Most of them are also part of what a normal or non Enterprise iPad application should have and I have placed them in order of importance...

Code using the Security API - Encrypt your users application data on the device and that is in addition to any other Device Management & Security that you should be using. Enterprise users should also be looking at Configuration Profiles and 3rd party tools that utilise Apple's MDM (Mobile Device Management) that was introduced in iOS 4.

Support for Mobile Working, that will work in both off-line and on-line modes -  As iPad's are increasingly being used as an alternative to a laptop when out and about and even though connectivity is getting better and better, there will always be the chance of a 'dead-zone.'

Integrate with existing 'legacy' back office systems - Extend existing Enterprise Applications into the Mobile world. If you are planning to develop many Enterprise Mobile Applications and possibly support many devices, other than iOS devices, check out a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform. (See the Sybase Unwired Platform). Such a platform will also aid considerably with the secure bidirectional synchronisation of data, between mobile device and back office, which is not something standard that iOS offers.

Use core iOS features - These cool features can extend and innovate your application wherever appropriate. Especially look at Airprint as a sizeable percentage of Field Force Applications need the facility for the Mobile Worker to leave reports etc with the customer, for legal reasons. Though we desperately need a small portable Mobile BT printer, like the Brother MW-140BT of old.

Make sure you have the iPad VGA cable - This will make presentations a breeze, without the need of an overhead projector, such as an ELMO. Take it from me, I have first hand experience of the benefits it brings on long trips or short notice meetings.

Not an iPhone app - iPad Developers need to make good use of the greater screen area. iPad vs iPhone will usually mean more data that can displayed, or different ways of displaying and interacting with your data. That is another subject for another article.

NOTE - I can't mention Enterprise iOS usage without mentioning the importance of Securing and Managing of these devices. Once you place corporate access to apps and data on these devices the monetary value of the device pales into insignificance when compared to the value of your crown jewels (data). So check out Apple's MDM (Mobile Device Management) and the vendors that support it with their infrastructure products (See Sybase Afaria).

Apple's iPad & Business is making a Knock-out combination, just look at what SAP is doing now!. The hardware and the applications will lead to innovative and surprising uses.

Please follow me on Twitter @ithain

More Stories By Ian Thain

As one of the Sybase Technical Evangelists, Ian regularly addresses technical audiences all over the world and his sessions are always very well attended. He also writes education classes, whitepapers, demos and articles for various Sybase products and publishes regularly in Journals such as SYS-CON's PBDJ and International Developer Magazine. He is also the Sybase Unwired Platform & PocketBuilder Evangelist and works closely with the team in Dublin, CA and Concord, MA on new features and demonstrations for the products. In his customer-facing Evangelist role, Ian is very involved with the design, production and testing of Enterprise class Unwired Solutions, that have been implemented using Sybase's Unwired tools for Sybase customers around the globe. In addition, Ian is a dedicated technical expert continually working with Sybase's key partners and clients to enhance the capabilities of the Unwired solutions that Sybase can offer to its customers. Ian can also be found on Twitter @ithain