The enterprise iPhone: Improvements in Apple iOS over the last 10 years

Apple launched the first iPhone running iPhone OS 1 in 2007. Ten years later and iOS has evolved to become a powerful and capable enterprise mobile operating system.

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It's been nearly 10 years since I camped out in the rain to purchase the original Apple iPhone. We've seen the iPhone go from a MP3 player feature phone to a full blown handheld computer that is finding its way throughout the enterprise market.

At my engineering consulting firm, we have a BYOD policy with IT control limited to Exchange. Nearly every associate uses an Apple iPhone with a large number using the fantastic Microsoft Outlook client for email and calendar management.

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It's interesting to see that Microsoft helps make the iPhone a great business phone when 10 years ago it was Microsoft that had much of the enterprise market share with Windows Phone. Apple is committed to business support as you can clearly see on the iPhone in business website. It's been an evolution in iOS over the last decade that brought us to where we are today, so let's take a look back and see what Apple offered along the way.

iPhone OS 1

When Apple released the first version of the iPhone, the operating system didn't have a name until the SDK was released in March 2008. Prior to that it was referred to as a mobile version of OS X.

The first version of the iPhone operating system was so limited it didn't even have an app store or any way to add third party apps. The core OS provided the essential apps, such as a phone dialer, messaging client, notes, web browser, music player, clock, calculator, and a few more apps.

Email was limited to IMAP and POP so it was clear this first iPhone was clearly focused on the consumer and not the enterprise market. You also had to activate and sync the iPhone with iTunes, which is not an enterprise application.

iPhone OS 2

The first thing many of us in business noticed immediately was the support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). Support was still a bit limited, but at least email, calendar, contacts and global address lookup were supported.

The major feature of iPhone OS 2 was the introduction of the App Store with third party applications. Businesses could create applications and begin to optimize the iPhone for work purposes.

There was no encryption yet in the operating system, so the iPhone still had a ways to go to compete with BlackBerry.

Configuration profiles were introduced by Apple, which meant that your IT department could have more control on the setup and management of the device. iTunes was still required for activation so iPhone OS 2 wasn't a complete enterprise success.

iPhone OS 3

As a long time user of various PDAs starting in 1997, it was funny to many of us mobile device enthusiasts that the big new feature of iPhone OS 3 was copy and paste since other mobile operating systems had it for years. Copy and paste was important to businesses though as a way to improve efficiency in communications and collaboration.

The first attempt at encryption was provided with iPhone OS 3. Encryption features in this release included the ability for restrictions in configuration profiles and encrypted backups.

Another important aspect of iPhone OS 3 was the release of the first Apple iPad with iOS 3.2. The iPad has since proven to be an important tool for businesses over the years.

iOS 4

Apple changed the name of its mobile operating system to iOS with version 4.0 in June 2010. iOS 4 provided the ability for IT departments to manage iPhones wirelessly over-the-air (OTA). This convenience was an important step towards making the iPhone a more attractive business option with a much easier way to manage the iPhone remotely and give better control of the iPhone to companies.

Another important element for the enterprise user was the addition of multi-tasking so that one could easily bounce between multiple apps quickly.

iOS 5

In 2011 we saw iOS 5 launch and finally no longer had to use iTunes to activate and manage the Apple iPhone. Apple also launched the volume purchasing program and a custom B2B program as a way to attract the enterprise.

ZDNet's Eric Lai provided the details on what iOS 5 brought to the enterprise. Features included a more useful lock screen, iCloud backup, and iMessage encryption.

Siri was also introduced in iOS 5. It didn't launch with many enterprise features, but it could save you time in performing some core tasks.

iOS 6

IT departments were used to company-wide image deployments for PCs and with iOS 6 this was now possible with the Apple iPhone.

The US Department of Defense approved the use of iOS 6. Back in 2013, there were a reported 470,000 BlackBerry devices and just 41,000 Apple mobile devices in use by the DOD so this approval was a major win for Apple.

iOS 7

In 2013, we saw the focus on business continue to be a significant part of the iOS release. A ZDNet post from 2013 listed seven enterprise security improvements that included Find My Phone, Touch ID, per app VPNs, improved MDM services, and more.

iOS 8

ZDNet's Charles McLellan stated Apple described iOS 8 as the biggest release since the App Store. There was a lot for consumers and developers in iOS 8, including Apple Health, improvements in Messages and Photos, Swift development language, public beta releases, and more.

Enterprise features included ability to sign and encrypt messages via S/MIME, more powerful MDM capabilities, corporate document control, and more.

iOS 9

Kevin Tofel wrote about the new device management aspects of iOS 9. Apple also new device restriction options in iOS 9, including support for Apple Watch.

A couple new enterprise features in the iOS 9.3 update that were discussed in ZDNet's Liam Tung's March 2016 article include IT admin control over the home screen and the ability to blacklist apps. These tools give businesses more control over devices they issue so that the focus is on work and not play.

iOS 10

iOS 10 is clearly focused on the enterprise market with further integration of business services into the OS. For example, with Cisco Spark one can now have calls routed to both the iPhone and desk phone. This gives the employee the opportunity to choose where to answer the call while also having a consolidated record of calls.

On a recent marine salvage case, I flew in the copilot seat of a chartered flight and saw the pilot use the iPad as an essential navigation tool that also powered some background music as we flew through the skies of British Columbia.

It's clear that iOS is now a critical component to many successful businesses. Take a look through the films and stories of Apple iOS products in action. The examples include the construction industry, financial institutions, airline services, marine navigation, medical field, farming, retail sales, and more.

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