Apple's move to shut down internal iOS apps at Facebook and reportedly Google has gone from an interesting battle between tech titans to one that may give enterprises pause.
Apple has shut down Facebook and Google internal apps over violations in the Apple Enterprise Developer Program. In a nutshell, Apple's enterprise program is designed for companies that want to distribute iOS apps internally to employees. Any app targeting consumers needs to go through the App Store.
Via TechCrunch, Facebook had a market research app that violated Apple's terms. In the trust wars, it was entertaining to see Apple punch Facebook in the head. Google apologized when it had an app also running outside the enterprise program. Apple is being fair and revoked the certificates for those two customers -- and rivals -- to distribute internal apps. But business got a little harder. A Google spokesperson told ZDNet: "We're working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon."
Apple has since restored internal access to apps for Google and Facebook based on various reports.
Now maybe this spat is still just a scrum between the tech giants that occupy big parts of our lives. But if you're an enterprise distributing iOS apps, you have to at least stop for a second and think about the power Apple yields over everything from your travel to expense to procurement systems.
- Apple pulls the plug on Facebook's internal iOS apps
- Hey Apple. Why not ban all of Facebook's apps?
- Google shuts down iPhone data-gathering app
This power is defined by the fact that Apple's iOS is the dominant enterprise mobile operating system. In the enterprise, iOS dominates Android. Apple has partnerships with IBM, SAP, Cisco, and systems integrators, to name a few. Should any enterprise distribute apps outside their walls, Apple could revoke your certificates, too. Perhaps this ability makes life difficult for joint customers of Apple and IBM, SAP, and a host of others.
Another way to think about this Apple-Google-Facebook enterprise spat: What if Microsoft pulled the plug on a frenemy's internal applications? I'm willing to bet we'd hear a lot more uproar.
Any C-level executive has to ask the question about whether they are in compliance with the Apple Enterprise Developer Program. Apple is likely looking for violations now that both Facebook and Google reportedly hoodwinked the company. It's possible that if Apple can shut down Facebook and Google internal apps it can shut you down, too.
Apple has been very clear about the issue. It states upfront to anyone joining the program:
Enroll in the Apple Developer Enterprise Program only if you intend to distribute proprietary apps to employees within your organization. If you intend to distribute apps outside of your organization through the App Store, enroll in the Apple Developer Program.
What's unclear is whether there will be any fallout to this Apple move. It's not fun to ponder how your business could fall over with a few violations of Apple's policies.
Just for the sake of vendor management, it's prudent for enterprises to always have two vendors in play. In Apple's case, enterprises could think about how to work in Android applications. Android has suffered in the enterprise due to fragmentation, but Google's Android Enterprise Recommended program has alleviated some of those concerns.
Also: Apple revokes Facebook's ability to deploy apps TechRepublic
While Apple may not shut enterprise internal apps down for companies not named Facebook or Google, it's worth scrubbing your mobile app footprint to make sure you comply with terms. The longer-term discussion for companies will revolve around using Android to offset Apple's power. After all, using two vendors has been in the enterprise playbook forever (AMD vs. Intel; SAP vs. Oracle; Dell vs. HPE; AWS vs. Microsoft Azure vs. Google Cloud Platform; G Suite vs. Office 365, etc.).You need two vendors in tight quarters just to keep your suppliers honest.