MobileIron extends control over enterprise iOS apps

New version safeguards homegrown apps, blocks rogue downloads

Enterprise IT can now distribute and manage homegrown iOS apps for mobile employees, and block them from downloading unauthorized apps.

MobileIron's new version of its smartphones management software now lets an enterprise control deploying internal iOS apps to employees, and it can prevent iPhone users from loading unauthorized apps.

Also read: Managing smartphones calls for new realism and flexibility

With Version 4.0 of its Virtual Smartphone Platform, MobileIron lets a company create an enterprise-based app store to distribute iOS apps it builds internally, without posting them to Apple's online App Store. The company also can set policies to restrict what apps can run on both company- and employee-owned devices.

Previously, VSP only administered a download process for iOS apps resident on Apple's site.

MobileIron unveiled its software in 2009, and it was innovative enough to be named a "Network World Wireless and Mobile Company to Watch." VSP has agent code that runs on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices, sending data about the device to the VSP server. The server creates a mirror image of the device content, activities and applications. Via this "clone," the IT department has a window into the device and its data. The vendor's product page has an overview

In VSP 4.0, MobileIron has added three main changes.

First, it creates the Enterprise App Storefront, which becomes in effect a private online delivery system for home-grown mobile apps. Apps can be published privately instead of publicly in Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market. Administrators can set policies regarding who can download what to which mobile device. Employees can download updated or new apps just as the do from a traditional application portal.

Apple made this function possible with iOS 4.1, and offers a range of resources for it. For enterprise deployments, the following are required: devices with iOS 4.1 or later, participation in the Apple iOS Developer Enterprise Program program, and enabling the iOS mobile device management features.

Second, IT administrators can set policies to specify which apps can and can't be downloaded. VSP's App Control page lets administrators create and apply rules regarding app security and downloads, identifying an app as required, allowed or disallowed. If the selected app doesn't match the rule, that mismatch triggers automatic responses, such as blocking access via Microsoft Enterprise ActiveSync or sending an alert to both the end user and the administrator.

The results are wide-ranging: the IT group can cut-off e-mail access to any iPhone that is found to have a password spoofing app, or block apps from being loaded on a device that lacks encryption.

Third, a new Mobility API lets device-based information be shared with other backend services and management applications, to track licenses for mobile applications or completely inventorying devices for faster helpdesk trouble-shooting.

The VSP 4.0 version will be released later in December, with the new features incorporated. Pricing is unchanged: either $4 monthly per device or $75 per device license.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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