With the Apple iPad’s 97% grip on the market for so-called enterprise-level companies, according to a recent survey, the inability to extend iOS management capability to enterprise IT departments is a cause of concern. But Apple has refused to approve apps that control iOS devices remotely.
Now, a mobile application management company is offering an alternative with an IT-industry first: remote control of iOS devices from desktop computers that lets a corporate IT department set some limits, rules and controls, yet preserve some of the privacy end users expect in a "bring your own device" environment. “You can control an iPad from halfway around the world,” says Jeremy Debate, lead architect, Apperian Labs, Boston.
The company’s Enterprise App Services Environment (EASE) platform for mobile application management (MAM) is a cloud-based service featuring a newly announced feature called "Control," which is available only to Apperian Labs clients. Jeremy Debate says that unlike mobile device management systems (MDM) that control devices at the hardware level, Control enables the creation of app-level privacy settings, which means an IT department may, for example, allow administrators to use the Settings app on the device but disallow them access to Angry Birds by marking certain apps off limits, or “private."
“When employees bring their own devices, corporate mobile device management can be a bit intrusive because IT takes control of the device and can outlaw things like the camera or wipe the device completely,” says Stephen Skidmore, director of product marketing at Apperian Labs. “That’s where MAM steps in.” Skidmore says that companies often come to him after they have tried MDM and run afoul of employees who had their devices' data wiped. He notices that companies reach out for help once they start having organization-level apps.
The remote service is not an application, but it is integrated in Apperian Labs' cloud-based EASE administrator interface, which operates on a web browser, so no software or installation is necessary. The service offers full-system screen sharing for iOS5 or iOS6, including the iPhone 5 and iPad. The devices can be locked and unlocked remotely, as well. Some construction users are very inventive when they need to remotely troubleshoot an iPad with workers in the field.
“I’ll use a program called Reflection that allows me to project my iPad screen onto my computer. I share [the image of the iPad screen] with the end user via GoToMeeting,” says Todd Sutton, business manager, project controls, Zachry Construction Corp., San Antonio. “I can’t see their device, but they can see mine. It’s the closest thing I can get to what Apperian is doing.”
Launched earlier this year, a company called Soti is the closest competitor to offer a version of remote iOS control. However, with Soti, users can control only a single app and only if the app developer uses the company's software development kit (SKD). Apperian Labs' service doesn't require use of an SKD and can control all the apps on a device.
Remote-access apps such as TeamViewer and VNC Viewer offer the ability to control desktop computers via Apple mobile devices—but not the reverse. Cydia, an application that is not sanctioned by the App Store, is available through the website Veency, which hosts non-Apple-approved apps for devices that have been "jailbroken." ENR was not able to test Cydia’s functions.
Skidmore says his company is focusing on MAM because he believes “that as companies come up the adoption curve of mobility, they will be needing to deploy apps and will focus more and more on MAM than MDM.”