To much excitement, Apple recently unveiled details of its latest iPhone and iPad operating system at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in June. Set for an autumn launch, iOS8 promises a host of new features that may not appear ground breaking on their own, but together they reflect the evolution of Apple mobile devices as business tools.
The new operating system is yet to be rolled out, but we've taken a preliminary look at some of the top new features and have some thoughts on what these new features could mean in the work environment.
Handoff / iCloud Drive
Two new features have been announced that could give even greater flexibility to workers who use multiple devices. iCloud Drive will allow employees to work on any document – presentation, .pdf or text document - from any location, and from any iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or even a Windows PC.
This collaboration and continuity of working is further enhanced with Handoff. Handoff has been designed to allow for a seamless transfer of data between devices sharing the same iCloud login.
For example, if you were to start drafting a note on your iPhone and wanted to continue the project on your iMac in your office, that document would already be waiting in the state that you left it when you sit down at your computer.
The issue businesses need to be aware of is that it can potentially increase the chances of sensitive data going missing or falling into the wrong hands.
Currently, Handoff has only been designed to work with Apple's own apps, but if this functionality is rolled out to third party apps then the data loss risks could become even greater.
Third party APIs
One of the biggest surprises to come out of the Developer Conference was the news that Apple has made the decision to open up some aspects of its mobile operating system to third party developers.
This means third party applications will have greater control over the device. An example of this is third party keyboard 'Swype' being made available on iOS devices for the first time.
Previously, the only choice of keyboard was the one that comes pre-installed. While this will mean even greater choice and functionality of apps, it also has the potential to open up new vulnerabilities. After all, if you leave the door unlocked for a friend, others can enter, as well.
Introduced with the iPhone 5s last September, Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner has so far been used to unlock the handset itself and as a verification tool when making purchases through Apple's App store. iOS8 makes this available to third party developers, as well, giving users the ability to unlock a greater range of apps via their fingerprints.
This could be great news for businesses, as it has the potential to act as the second part of a two-factor authentication system. This is especially important given the lax attitude many employees have towards password security.
If an employee's fingerprint is used in conjunction with a traditional password, it adds another layer to protect critical data on the device without adding an undue burden for employees.
The Business Challenge
The new features soon hitting the iPad and iPhone will bring added benefits for many, and show how Apple is continuing to meet the needs of the user.
However, in the wider business environment, firms need to be on their guard, and consider exactly what impact these new features will have on the way corporate data is stored and accessed.
Providing your employees with the flexibility they need to work how they want, when they want and on the device they want is absolutely vital to improving productivity and staff retention.
What this means is that businesses need to implement a secure framework for managing all devices, while maintaining the balancing act between data security and usability.
The key is choosing a single management solution across the business that is able to cope with multiple devices, form factors and operating systems. Once such a system is in place, applications and devices can be delivered that meet the need of the employees, but without compromising security.
Tim Williams, Director of Product Management, Absolute Software