New world, new ways

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18 September 2015 | 0

Paul HearnsThe world is changing and old assumptions about how things are done are making way for new realities.

In the world of enterprise IT, this manifesting itself in new arrays of choice that were, in the not too distant past, too much to hope for.

Recently we saw a Microsoft spokesperson on the stage at an Apple PR event, talking about the effort the Redmond giant was putting into developing productivity applications for the new iPad Pro — a device which could be seen as a direct competitor to the Surface Pro line.

“For a long time, Apple has been reluctant to cater for enterprise with iOS, for fear of the user experience being somehow compromised”

Not so long ago, this would have been unthinkable, not that Microsoft would put serious effort into developing its Office applications for the Apple platform, but rather that a Microsoft spokesperson would get to talk about it in the midst of the carefully crafted atmosphere of an Apple PR event. Apple has always been so careful about how it controls these events that the appearance of the Microsoft bod took many by surprise. However, it is a measure of the pragmatism of both companies, and the pressure of a market that wants flexibility and choice, that the two could come together and share the stage for mutual benefit and, it must be said, for the benefit of their respective customer bases.

The next change in this increasing trend is again concerning Apple. The release of iOS 9 sees a whole host of enterprise security features baked in that will make iOS devices, not least the iPad Pro, more manageable for IT admins and allow for greater security and data protection and control.

For example, the ability of iOS 9 to incorporate already installed apps in its data control capabilities, instead of having to reinstall as was previously the case, is a major step forward, as is 6 digit PIN codes and limited VPN access for apps. All these features go a long way towards compliance with the evermore stringent standards being demanded of enterprise mobility management suites.

For a long time, Apple has been reluctant to cater for enterprise with iOS, for fear of the user experience being somehow compromised. With the consumer demand to use iOS devices at work, Apple has been slow to deliver but iOS 9 seems to be going a long toward addressing those criticisms.

So along with Microsoft realising that other platforms exist and deserve just as good a user experience with its applications as its own, and Apple realising that its users need better features to allow them to use their devices at work, there now seems to be a general acceptance at the highest levels that encryption backdoors — so often a feature of even high level applications from all corners — is a bad thing that could hurt business, undermine confidence and drive users elsewhere.

The US national Security Council which advises the president has prepared a report that said mandatory back doors in encryption capabilities would actually reduce cybersecurity overall. This would be due to reduced confidence in such products and unwillingness by governments to use them for fear of US spying, all of which would snowball into a significant economic impact.

The fact that such a lofty organisation would so plainly state the fears expressed by so many commentators perhaps indicates a pragmatism that was not there before, perhaps due to the strength of the intelligence community in the US. A strength acquired no doubt thanks to the legacy of so many foreign engagements and the utterly failed war on terror policy years.

Irrespective of the cause, the NSC document presents the option of doing nothing at all on encryption backdoors.

These three examples, along with many others that affect enterprise IT (Apple IBM partnership, Microsoft supporting Linux in its cloud environment, the race to support OpenStack) have shown that when users demand flexibility and the ability to combine elements in whatever way they desire, vendors must listen for face the consequences. And the consequences can be dire. Old rivalries become a luxury, operating policies must be re-considered and a willingness to cooperate must be adopted.


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