MobileIron’s latest release focuses on increasing and securing enterprise Mac deployments

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider MobileIron has announced its latest Apple release, which aims to help companies deliver more Macs – and secure them – into their organisation.

The company is going down the millennial route in explaining the increasing prominence of Macs, with VP strategy Ojas Rege telling this publication it is a “perfect storm” for the Apple devices. The press materials cite studies from Moosylvania and Brand Keys – the latter admittedly being two years old – saying the Apple brand resonated with millennials and was the brand they were most loyal and engaged to respectively.

Yet Macs, if they are being used in organisations, are often ridden with security administration holes. “They fall into one of two categories,” Rege tells Enterprise CIO. “Either they’re not secured – it’s actually stunning sometimes that you’ll talk to what on paper and across every other endpoint are really high security IT organisations but they have 1000 unsecured Macs – or they require a different system, and that increases the operational complexity.

“So our goal with this release is to enable our customers to offer Macs across the entire employee base, as a corporate authorised platform, that we can secure with the full MobileIron security and access model,” Rege adds.

In other words, MobileIron aims to bring together a number of products in its portfolio to help secure Macs. Protecting data that’s on the device – secure delivery of applications, enforcing encryption and so forth – is fairly obvious, but data will also be protected as it leaves the device through MobileIron Tunnel, its per-app VPN product. Users will also be authorised, at the device and at the app level, to get in to other apps, such as Office 365 and Salesforce, through MobileIron Access.

“What we’re doing is we’re bringing all of our security and configuration controls to the Mac, and then adding to that the Tunnel and the Access pieces,” says Rege. “From the point at which an application is delivered to the Mac, and the user starts using it, to the point at which that data goes into whatever the backend system is that the company has, it’s a unified architecture.”

MobileIron has previously offered Mac support, albeit on more of a basic level. But the timing feels right to Rege, citing a diminishing cost gap alongside the next generation workforce push. The view that Macs are used by creatives and creatives alone is out of date – take IBM, for instance, arguably the most prominent example of a company which has gone all-in on the devices.

“If we turn the clock back a couple of years, Macs were executive jewellery, or they were used by particular parts of the organisation,” says Rege. “But they weren’t generally made available to the broad knowledge worker.

“I think the cost piece is actually really key, because if you think about the two inhibitors that exist in Macs in many organisations, one was they felt more expensive, and second was the apps weren’t available for them, or the apps were not at the level or quality that the enterprise needed,” he adds. “If you look at what’s happening now, the cost differential is decreasing not because the hardware is cheaper, but because of the contract models that customers use.”

Neither is it a case of different workflows for different devices; figures from Egnyte, which this publication reported on last week, found that a quarter of enterprise tasks were performed on macOS, much higher than its actual device market share. “As we see the move to cloud services, the distinction between what you could do on a PC or what you need to do on a PC, or Mac, starts to diminish,” says Rege.

iOS has long been dominant as the number one enterprise mobile operating system; so is it a case of horses for courses, with the support for Apple on the mobile side translating to the desktop? “That is a fascinating question about architectural preference, right?” Rege notes drily, adding: “If you think about the services that Apple is putting in place, the whole point of a lot of the services is there is this continuous operation, and integration, across all of the Apple platforms. The path of least resistance if you’re a Mac user is an iOS device for smartphone, and similarly in the other direction.

“There’s always been a question out there if you’re an OS vendor: do you need to support all form factors?” he adds. “At some point – and I’ve always felt this – the form factor is kind of irrelevant. You expect the experience to work no matter what form factor you pick, and so OS vendors that are designing their operating systems and the user experiences with that in mind will tend to be in a good position in the long run.”

The Apple release will also, as is customary, include day zero compatibility support for iOS 11, expected to be launched later this month.

 

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