iOS 5 – Anything In It For The Enterprise?

Apple’s yearly Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was kicked off yesterday. Basically not possible to miss if you’ve visited any tech related web sites the past 24 hours I guess. As expected iOS 5 was presented along with the next release of OSX and the much hyped iCloud.

If you want to go through the entire keynote for all the details I’d recommend heading over to Engagdet – I’m certainly not able to cover it as extensively, nor is there any point in me doing so.

While you could say it’s a let down that the iPhone 5 will not be available until the fall they did at least release Beta 1 of iOS 5 to developers, so if you have an account with Apple you can at least start testing it out now. I happen to have access to the dev site, so I loaded up an iPad to see if there was anything included that would be of interest to us more enterprise minded folks.

I’m not saying it’s all going to blow your socks off, but there were a couple of improvements.

No iTunes for you!
One of my irritation moments with iOS is the need to tether new devices with iTunes to activate them. I am not a big fan of iTunes itself, and I see no technical reason why this is necessary. All other phone manufacturers are able to let you just insert a SIM and get online in a matter of moments if they like. And finally Apple is able to as well. Touting it as “finally PC free” sounds a bit over-ambitious, but that would be the usual Jobs style of presenting new features. The good thing? It really does work – I do not have to use any USB connection to get started. Which means I’d have no problems recommending a customer to not distribute iTunes to each and every workstation. I’m not saying iTunes should necessarily be verboten – each user to their own liking really, but I’m guessing a couple of users would appreciate this as well. And there’s OTA updates so you don’t have to use iTunes for upgrading the OS at a later point in time either. (You obviously have to use iTunes when you’re upgrading from iOS 4 first.)

The “restriction” that you need an Apple ID to load software onto the device still applies though, so if you have an MDM solution that requires a client to be installed on the device you still have to create an account for each individual user. (Can be done entirely on the device of course.) While it comes highly recommended (and highlighted) from Apple you can press “Skip” and use the basic functionality of the device.

Exchange ActiveSync
Exchange is naturally still a supported mail solution – I ran a connection and found it to support ActiveSync version 14.0 (Exchange 2010 RTM).

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This is perfectly OK for most I guess although the Exchange fetishist in me really would have loved it to be 14.1. (Don’t know if this will change in a later beta or the final release.) Synchronization still works as expected as far as I can tell.

S/MIME
A feature most end-users don’t care about, that has been a sort of pain point for some enterprises is the support for S/MIME or rather the lack thereof. I don’t know what took them so long, but the iGuys have now added support for this. Looks easy enough to configure as well:
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You would still need to push the certificates to the device in some way. While iPhone Configuration Utility works for this purpose, it would also be possible to distribute from an MDM solution. If you have an MDM solution for managing the iPhones/iPads you might be pushing the Exchange configuration from server side. It would be a natural extension that you could also enable S/MIME through the same solution, but I do not know yet how that will work out. Haven’t seen it in any plain sight documentation yet, but I’d expect it to be an option once the MDM vendors get their stuff upgraded.

The rest of the things I noticed on my quick spin was not relevant in the perspective of this blog. I’ll have to dig to see if there are any more policies that can be enforced.

Now, we’ll just have to sit back for a couple of months and get ready for the next push of end-users demanding new iPhones Smile

14 thoughts on “iOS 5 – Anything In It For The Enterprise?”

  1. I haven’t tested it, but policies I had configured on my iPad (with iPCU) before the upgrade were still working. So I see no reason why it wouldn’t work – iPCU is just pushing out basic plist xmls and I don’t think Apple are changing those. Obviously any new settings aren’t exposed, but old ones are still valid as far as I can tell. The iPad is also able to report correctly to my MDM server after the upgrade.

  2. I haven’t tested this in iOS 4, but I don’t get any kind of errors when attempting to move or delete mails while Exchange is unreachable. I tested both with no Internet connectivity, and while online with an Exchange account I know is unreachable (since I took the server offline).

  3. Have you tried the offline operations a few times to make sure it wasn’t a fluke? I was just about to return an iPad I bought to swap for an Android tablet, but if this will *finally* be fixed in the fall, I can wait it out. Under current iOS, if you move an email, it will go through the animation, then give an error msg, and the moved email will find itself back in the inbox. If you try to send an email while offline (even in airplane mode), you will receive the same error message indicating a total failure, yet the message will be queued up in the outbox. If iOS 5 finally permits offline operation, I’ll hang on to it.

    Thanks for testing this!!

  4. I just re-tested on Beta 2, then upgraded to Beta 3 and tested once more. I’m not seeing any errors on my ActiveSync mail account. I get an info when opening the mail app that I will need to be online to actually transmit data, but no errors.
    I don’t know if there are any dependencies as to which version of Exchange one happens to be running (wouldn’t really make sense), but for the reference I have tested against Exchange 2010 SP1.
    So looks good so far on my end, but of course you never know what code changes may occur in later builds of iOS 5.

  5. Any word on whether the later beta releases included support for ActiveSync 14.1?

    As an Exchange Admin..this is important!

  6. It looks like we’re still on Exchange 14.0. The difference between 14.0 and 14.1 isn’t all that much though, so it’s not missing anything in the policy department at least.

  7. The reason I ask is that we are having problems with recurring meetings in where if one instance is cancelled, the iOS is processing the entire series as cancelled. While Apple did identify this as an issue and said it was corrected in iOS 4.3, we still see the issue. Upon escalation with Apple, this was one of their responses..

    “Exchange Active Sync (EAS) before version 14.0 (which is part of Exchange 2010) did not contain support for delegates. EAS 14.1 (Exchange 2010 SP1) contains full support of delegates. No current version of iOS provides delegate support, but the newer the version of Exchange, the better the behavior will be. Part of the logic iOS performs on invites to determine the proper way of dealing with them is to check for the existence of the invite email in the inbox.”

    You would think that this wouldn’t be such a difficult thing to accomplish..

  8. You would indeed think it couldn’t be so complicated. Yet all the sync solutions I have worked with has had problems with calendars. Mail “just works”, but calendar not necessarily so.

    I do not know all the details of the delegate support, and how this works on the lower levels of the EAS protocol (haven’t worked my way to the calendar yet), but I would hope they are working on it. We’ll hopefully see iOS 5 being launced tomorrow so we might know the answer by then – I’ll upgrade as soon as I can. (Not that it’s likely that they bump up the EAS version number, but one can hope.)

  9. Yeah..it’s just frustrating that Exchange 2010 SP1/EAS 14.1 was released last August. You would think that a year would be enough time to incorporate this. Especially since it’s a whole new release of the iOS software.

    I’m not a developer, but really would like to find a way to show Apple that this is a huge thing for coporate customers.

    Lord Microsoft knows that SP2 is right around the corner..haha

  10. Windows Phone has EAS 14.1 now with Mango, and Samsung has it in their newest Galaxy S/SII builds, but other than that is hasn’t “caught on” yet for some reason.

    While you will not able to implement an ActiveSync client in a weekend it is not rocket science, and if I’m able to hack some workable C# code I would think Apple would be able to do better than me.

    I don’t know if SP2 for Exchange 2010 will bring new features or a new version of EAS – I’ll obviously be interested in this, but I’m afraid it isn’t going to be adopted right away by any of the bigger players if there isn’t a killer feature there.

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