Jun 09, 2016

Mobile Apps for Your Business – An Introduction to the Apple Developer Enterprise Program

Cody Case

Cody Case

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Business Mobility Has Arrived

I recently visited an Apple Store for a service appointment on my Watch.  The woman seated next to me at the ‘Genius Bar’ bought something, and when the Apple employee took her payment using only an iPad Mini she was surprised.  “You mean you can check folks out from anywhere in the store using only that?” she asked her ‘Genius’, clearly impressed.  Her first exposure to an iOS device in a business setting had obviously expanded her perception of what mobile devices can do.

As organizations continue to embrace mobile technologies more people will encounter iOS devices in the workplace.  Folks who fly might have noticed flight attendants using iPads to accept payment on flights.  Others – like my neighbor who is a pilot – have replaced heavy bags of flight manuals with an iPad Air.  But what is less noticeable is how companies are actually making the shift to enterprise mobile technology.  After all, I can’t find the ‘Flight Attendant’ app or the flight manuals for a Boeing 737-800 airplane on the App Store.  So how are organizations leveraging mobile app technologies to execute on corporate innovation initiatives?

Apple Provides Tools Exclusively for Businesses

Apple bundles the tools used to develop, test, and deploy mission-critical business apps into their ‘Developer Enterprise Program’ (DEP for short) – and it is available to any company with a Dun & Bradstreet number and $299 USD.  The DEP is only for companies who intend to distribute proprietary apps to employees within an organization, and its benefits include:

  • Private app distribution capabilities via:

    • Your company’s Mobile Device Management software (e.g. VMWare AirWatch, MobileIron, etc)

    • Privately hosted corporate app stores (i.e. company intranet)

  • Access to pre-release versions of upcoming iOS development tools:

    • Beta versions of Xcode for access to pre-release developer tools

    • Beta iOS software access speeds adoption of new device features

    • Test on pre-release iOS versions to ensure your apps won’t crash when new iOS versions launch publicly

  • Allowance to install test apps on up to 100 devices per form factor (i.e. 100 each of iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple Watch as applicable):

    • Use of Apple’s TestFlight program for wireless distribution of test apps to testers and key stakeholders

    • View crash reports on test app versions to proactively resolve unanticipated issues

    • Collect user comments on upcoming app releases to shorten feedback cycles

  • Two technical support incidents per year

    • Code-level assistance from Apple’s developer support team, if needed

DEP Brings Consumer Technology to Enterprise Mobility, Responsibly

Once enrolled in the DEP program business apps can take advantage of the many capabilities offered by modern iOS devices.  Here are a few I find particularly compelling in a corporate setting:

  • Apple Pay – allows users to securely pay for physical goods and services using payment information saved in their device

  • Background Modes – allows apps to continue running, even when they are in the background

  • CloudKit – share user or app data between multiple instances of the same application, or between multiple apps developed by the same organization

  • Inter-App Audio – your app can export audio for other apps to use

  • Keychain String – allows for sharing of saved passwords across multiple apps developed by the same organization

  • Maps – apps can get and display directions, or provide custom routing information for use in Maps and other apps

  • Personal VPN – create a custom VPN configuration for your app for secure networking

  • Wireless Accessory Configuration – provides for access to Apple-approved MFi Wi-Fi accessories such as AirPlay devices

Of course common app features like Push Notifications, iBeacons, Bluetooth, GPS, and the Camera are available as well.  And it is all built upon the secure foundation of iOS app isolation and data encryption technologies that have literally made headlines.

A Silver Bullet?

The Apple Developer Enterprise Program is how companies of all sizes are able to develop, test, and deploy mission-critical iOS apps to internal teams of employees – privately and securely.  But it may not be a fit for all apps.  The DEP does not provide any form of elevated permission to access private (Apple-only) features such as NFC or RFID.  Enterprise apps dependent on NFC or RFID technology will require a 3rd party accessory for iOS devices, or deployment on the Android platform.  But NFC is one of the last software limitations of current iOS devices – for the majority of uses, the Developer Enterprise Program provides a solid foundation upon which to build internal apps that use mobile devices to streamline processes and increase productivity.  You can learn more about DEP here, or contact Credera today if you would like to discuss how the DEP or private mobile applications might help transform the way you do business.

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