Apple iOS 7: What Does It Mean For Developers?

Apple iOS 7

Well, it is that time of the year again isn’t it? Whether you are an “Apple Fanboy” or a “Google Fandroid”, you are likely watching the tech news and keeping tabs on the endless stream of debate and teasers regarding the latest release from Team iOS. Similarly, at time of writing I have just seen the release of the new Google Nexus 7 – the first device to ship with Android 4.3 out of the box.

With iOS 7 in particular, it seems that every few days there is a new developer release of iOS so that apps can be made ready in time for the big release day. Each release of course brings, at a minimum, another round of test system deployments and regression testing – yay! boo!

Looking at iOS 7, I think it brings some nice new features. Not everyone agrees but these things always divide public opinion. I have a combination of Android and iOS devices, I enjoy using both of them without preferring either of them over the other – sorry!

Looking at the iOS 7 pending release though, we see changes to some core services. The look and feel has been overhauled, Control and Notification Centres have been updated, Air Drop is there now giving more sharing and integration options and, most interesting of all, real multitasking is coming – a significant development as it completely changes the behaviour of applications.

What Do New Mobile OS’s Mean For The Enterprise?

What is of interest is that today, we see a new market driver for the enterprise. We now face the situation whereby the new release of a device or OS update brings the need for the enterprise to invest time and resources to ensure that the same functionality stills works as designed. Further, this additional investment doesn’t necessarily add value for that investment, it merely returns you to stable running which you already had prior to the announcement of the release.

This is a relatively new shift in demand for services. Any business that has a strong mobile apps presence needs to keep up and we see the situation where, in the case of iOS, an announcement of a new release is made in June, with general availability in the autumn. What is more challenging is that this would hint at the release of new hardware too; new hardware with new specifications.

If you are someone like Spotify or Pandora, Netflix or LoveFilm, all of which have excellent apps today, you are then against the clock to ensure your apps are ready so you can capture new market share by embracing the latest and greatest features.

As a business, this I imagine is quite frustrating as it essentially means someone else is dictating when you make an investment, albeit an investment to maintain the status quo. So what can we do to minimise this impact?

We all know that application releases are critical to brand value and loyalty. We saw a bit of a stumble recently in the UK with the release of a new sports TV channel app which experienced issues at launch. Not good when you are hoping to watch the first match of the new Premier League season!

So, we have to work out a way of minimising the impact of these new updates, we need to ensure adequate testing for functionality and performance and also need to ensure that we focus not only on the front end but also the back end systems that form the rest of the transaction path.

Is Agile Development The Solution?

I think this forms an argument for iterative development methodologies such as Agile whereby you build a repetitive, quality management model that accommodates frequent testing cycles so that your services are validated prior to release. Further, by taking an approach based around this frequent repeatability, it then makes automation a more obvious requirement.

By implementing efficient testing methods that are repeatable, maybe as part of a wider DevOps or continuous deployment solution, it is possible to build out a framework within which you can absorb a large degree of increased activity as a result of releases of new OSes. I have seen it with my own eyes!

But these are my thoughts! What is YOUR view on testing in the mobile space?

How do you ensure you maintain quality assurance on multiple devices and OS combinations? How do you deal with the advent of new releases? Do you align release schedule to coincide with what has become the generally accepted timeframes for new releases out of Cupertino or Korea? Do you test the full end to end services provided by your apps or do you use a simulation or stubbing approach to isolate mobile components in the system?

I am interested to understand what is implemented today as best practice.

Ken O'Hagan

Ken O’Hagan, Director Software PreSales UK&I, has worked at HP since March 2008. Prior to his current job role, Ken worked as Software Principle in the UK&I for over two years. Ken is currently responsible for leading the technical sales cycles, along with Sales Executives, assisting in account strategy, leveraging business and solution selling skills to engage customer IT leadership on organisational and business initiatives. Before coming to HP, Ken amassed close to 10 years of technical experience, working for companies such as Perot Systems and The Bank of Ireland. During his time at the latter, he was responsible for architecture definition/validation, hardware specification, technical design, and implementation and was a key part of the team that successfully implemented the five largest programs ever delivered for Bank of Ireland. Ken graduated from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle in 1996, with a BSc (Hons.) in Computing.

  • Nigel Hawthorn

    Apple’s iOS 7 delivers over 200 new features, including over 40 features specifically focused on the enterprise. iOS 7 is about apps. In conjunction with an enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform like MobileIron, iOS 7 removes key barriers to broad-scale app development and deployment. Alone, the new iOS 7 features are just a set of dormant APIs in the operating system. But, when paired with an EMM platform, they become a set of important enterprise capabilities.

    Enterprise mobility is only successful if it works for the employee and iOS 7 introduces a number of features that will improve the user experience and reduce helpdesk calls. For example, Mobile IT can now push app configurations, such as server name, username, and password, to managed apps on iOS 7 devices. This means employees don’t have to input these configuration parameters themselves, which reduces help desk calls and improves the user experience. Another key usability feature is enterprise single sign-on which means that enterprise credentials can be shared across apps so users don’t have to re-enter passwords. A third example is silent app updates which ensure that all the enterprise apps on the device are up-to-date with the latest version without the employee having to take any action.

    Risk of data loss is a primary concern for all IT professionals and iOS 7 delivers better mechanisms to protect mobile app data. First, iOS data protection is now automatically applied to third-party apps. Previously, app developers had to explicitly call the iOS data protection API to add another layer of encryption security to their app using an encryption key derived from the device passcode. This meant some apps were protected and others were not. Now, as long as the security policy in the EMM platform requires a device passcode, information in all third-party apps will be protected. Second, there are new levels of control to prevent unauthorized apps from accessing corporate content and corporate apps from accessing unauthorised content. Third, new web filtering allows IT to apply whitelist / blacklist policies through the EMM platform to all browsers on the iOS 7 device. This can be useful in, for example, educational settings where there are substantial restrictions on what type of content is appropriate to view. The device must be in supervised mode, however, to apply these policies. The bottom line is that IT can now feel confident about expanding its mobile apps program knowing that company data in mobile iOS apps won’t be compromised.

    Nigel Hawthorn, Director of Marketing EMEA
    http://www.mobileiron.com

    • Ken O’Hagan

      You are absolutely spot on, great response, thank you. This illustrates the complexity of this release and while there are 200 changes, many aimed at making IOS7 even better for the enterprise, it still represents changes in behaviour of the application that needs a robust testing and operational assurance model to help mitigate brand damaging outages like we have seen quite recently.

      Ken O Hagan

  • John Antunes

    It’s clear from the various new features that Apple’s newest iOS is more than just a skin-deep update. Businesses will benefit from increased security through now having the ability to designate which apps are allowed to be accessed through the corporate VPN. As well as this, IT departments can now manage app store licences – buy in bulk, assign and revoke just as they already do with traditional software.

    The improved mobile device management options will also allow companies to more easily and quickly enrol devices in line with corporate settings and company policy. This will enable rapid activation (potentially of many devices at once) so that employees can be up and running quickly. Businesses of all sizes should therefore be looking to maximise these features to improve productivity, efficiency and ultimately provide a slicker service to customers.

    John Antunes, Regional Director, SME and Channels, UKI & Netherlands at http://www.sap.com/uk/

  • Igor Zhadanov

    iOS7 shows that Apple has finally started to pay attention to what businesses need to use iPhones and iPads at scale. iOS7 focuses on better flexibility in MDM (mobile device management), security and centralised control for both company-owned and personal devices that people use for work.

    Overall, iOS7 is a step forward and there is no reason for businesses not to upgrade. It has lots of minor improvements, like an improved Mail app, rendering annotations in PDF files, background app updates and more.

    Some core limitations are still there though. Currently iOS7 has nothing new for data exchange between apps. Say, if you receive a document via email, then need to sign it in PDF Expert and email it back, there is no way to attach a document to the existing email thread. ‘Open In’ dialog barely solves the problem, as it creates copies of different versions of the documents across different apps, which quickly become a mess if you use it a lot.

    Igor Zhadanov, CEO and co-founder
    http://readdle.com/