Why businesses are embracing iOS 7

Every now and again, somebody tries to tell Erik Frieberg the same story they told him six years ago–that the iPhone is made for play, and that the iOS operating system isn’t really built for business and enterprise use. Frieberg’s eyes tell him differently.

“People talk about iPhones being consumer devices, not enterprise,” said Frieberg, vice president of product marketing and end-user computing at VMware. “But every meeting I walk into, nine out of ten phones are iPhones. They’re clearly the tool of choice by far for organizations.”

If iOS originally snuck in the boardroom’s back door and adapted, then iOS 7 strolled confidently in the front door, jammed with new features to help businesses protect their data, encourage intraoffice collaboration, and communicate with customers.

“Certainly, on the enterprise front, this was one of the largest leaps forward from an operating system perspective,” said Wayne P. DeCesaris, senior vice president for managed solutions at Tangoe, which manages computing and communications networks for major companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, eBay, and Clear Channel.

After iOS 7 launched this fall, Macworld spoke with a number of enterprise experts to get a better look at how the new operating system will play in the business arena. The consensus? There’s a lot to like–and some stuff that still needs to be done.

“You might even say that iOS is the most corporate-friendly OS on the market right now,” Frieberg says.

What’s working at work

Macworld spoke to mobile enterprise experts around the industry and found widespread praise for the following iOS 7 features:

Device security: Who knows better than Apple that a smartphone loaded with sensitive work-related data…and then forgotten on a bar stool is a disaster waiting to happen.

“A lot of companies worry employees don’t use passwords on their phones,” said Domingo Guerra, president of Appthority, a mobile security services company. “Lost devices are probably the number one way data has been lost from these devices.”

Enterprise experts welcomed iOS 7’s new security features. Activation Lock makes stolen phones tough for thieves to crack. For instance, once you designate your device as lost, whoever is in possession of it can’t restore or reactivate it. The new iPhone 5s also offers a fingerprint-activated lock that works in conjunction with the passcode.

Whether these measures are enough remains to be seen. There have already been reports of fingerprint hacking, observers noted. “We’ll see if that can stand the test of time and the hardened enterprise approach,” Tangoe’s DeCesaris said, “but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”