Guest author Nolan Wright is the CTO of Appcelerator.
Any day now, Apple will launch iOS 7. The release of Apple’s newest mobile operating system will be the most important event for the iPhone since it was first announced in 2007. iOS 7 includes an astounding 1,500 new APIs, a completely renovated user interface and a host of true enterprise features.
The scope and magnitude of iOS 7 will bring about some major changes to how enterprises, brands, IT gurus and developers go about their day-to-day jobs. iOS 7 is bound to shake up several different aspects of the mobile development industry.
Here are three areas overlooked by many people awaiting the release of iOS 7 and the consequences it will have.
Disrupting The Mobile Device Management Market
With iOS 7, the enterprise finally receives treatment as a first-class citizen. This is evident in the range of new security and app management features such as “open in management" (governing which apps and accounts can open attachments containing corporate data), enterprise single sign-on and per app VPN.
Apple’s beefed-up corporate management capabilities are good news for the enterprise. But it comes with some consequences to existing industry verticals.
iOS 7 will change the equation for mobile device management (MDM) vendors. These vendors proved their worth in the early days of BYOD as non-corporate devices began to flood the enterprise and IT departments scrambled for tools that would restore some semblance of governance and control. By targeting the device, corporate control could be regained relatively quickly. It was a brute force approach toward devices the corporation didn’t actually own, similar to an eager neighbor padlocking your house in the name of crime prevention.
The strategy embedded in iOS 7—it’s the apps and data in those apps that need to be controlled, not the entire device—is one MDM vendors have been waking up to. See: mobile application management (MAM). The question is whether these vendors want to compete against embedded, native capabilities (perhaps on the argument that not every operating system will offer equivalent protections), or turn to less trampled pastures.
Hopes For HTML 5 As A Mobile Cure-all
iOS 7 is but the latest and largest entry in the mobile platform wars. Google will soon counter with Android 4.4 KitKat and the newlyweds of Microsoft and Nokia are surely not far behind. There’s far too much market share at stake for any one of these players to slow their research and development efforts.
Given this, the prospects for HTML5 becoming the one technology to rule them all look bleak. Mobile Web apps (and their hybrid cousins) remain cut off from all but a fraction of the capabilities available to native apps. As iOS 7’s 1,500 new APIs show, the gap will only grow. However well meaning the standards bodies that control the Web are, there’s very little chance they can match the pace of innovation even of a mobile laggard like Microsoft, never mind a pacesetter like Apple.
This isn’t to say HTML5 will become irrelevant. It has its place (especially for content-driven apps). But where user experience, feature-richness, security and performance are concerned, that place looks bound to remain a distant second.
Enterprise Strategies For Software Delivery
Research firm Gartner makes a useful value distinction between “apps” and “applications.” Applications are baggy monsters prized for their long lists of capabilities, while apps are valued for doing a few things well and their purposefulness.
Of course, in the enterprise we’ve optimized our delivery strategies (for design, for development and testing, for measurement, for release frequency etc.) around applications. Applications run the business. With the exception of a few industries, apps have been mostly an IT side project, a “we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there” type of priority.
The explosion of mobile computing and trends like bring-your-own-device (BYOD) have pushed apps higher in the IT food chain. After iOS 7, virtually every enterprise will refactor their software life cycle for mobile.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Call volumes: When iOS 6 launched, 90% of users upgraded on the first day. This went largely unnoticed because iOS 6 had little to no impact on existing apps. But iOS 7 is a different story. The user interface differences mean that previous app versions will exhibit significant text and image rendering differences. Any organization that hasn’t already optimized its apps for iOS 7 may find heavy help desk call volumes almost immediately and will be bound to rethink their strategy for future releases.
- Competitive pressure: With iOS 7, savvy companies will recognize a hugely expanded palette for the kinds of apps they build, whether for customers or employees or both. Given the increasingly experience-driven economy, delivering great user experiences has become the new competitive edge. Companies in tight markets will see iOS 7 as a way to gain a leg up.
- iOS 7 is a milestone, not a finish line: In the legacy application world, we might confront one or two big pushes every three to five years (a new version of Windows, for instance) with relative stability the rest of the time. But given the mobile platform wars, enterprises are going to be contending with a regular stream of OS upgrades and new device types for years.
“Creative destruction” (also known as Schumpeter's gale) is one of those phrases that has been much in the media of late. It’s too much to claim that iOS 7 alone will set off another cycle. But Apple’s latest is bound to introduce new cracks in some current foundations.