Managing custom developed iOS Apps for internal, company-use

Deploying and managing proprietary, company-owned, iOS Apps within business can be a challenge with the myriad of Apple program and distribution channels to navigate (this a whole area of exploration in its own right and we’ll do just that in a  future blog). Ensuring employees, customers, suppliers, partners, etc have the latest App features including content can mean all the difference. As can removing an App and it’s associated content from those that no longer have a need or right to it.

As more organizations custom develop iOS Apps for internal or restricted external use, managing those Apps is becoming increasingly important and a top agenda item. New mobile application management solutions are coming to market almost daily, everything from light-weight, near-free solutions to robust, more costly ones.

At the light-weight end of the scale are tools available free of charge from Apple: iTunes, Apple Configurator (OSX) and it’s equivalent for Windows, the iPhone Configuration Utility. These are local solutions require iOS devices to be “in-hand”, connected to computers running those tools. iTunes is the most basic of the three, providing the ability to install new versions of a proprietary iOS App and/or it’s associated content (or de-install, as the case may be). Apple Configurator (OSX) and iPhone Configuration Utility (Windows) start to provide some management capabilities for the device itself, the applications that reside on it and the content that Apps may be reliant upon.

As an alternative to above, Apple’s Profile Manager provides all the management capabilities of Apple Configurator (OS X) and iPhone Configuration Utility but does so remotely, or over-the-air, removing the need for the device to be in-hand. The one key limitation with Profile Manager is it does not support proprietary iOS Apps distributed through the Volume Purchase Program for Business, whereas Apple Configurator (OS X) and iPhone Configuration Utility (Windows) do.

For those requiring a more extensible and robust, over-the-air management solution, there is a dearth of third-party solutions available in the market. Some focus specifically on managing the Apps themselves, some on the devices that the Apps run on and some on the content that Apps are reliant upon. Some combine all three aspects:mobile application management (MAM), mobile device management (MDM) and mobile content management (MCM) into complete, end-to-end solutions sometimes referred to as enterprise mobile management (EMM), although MDM is often loosely used for these end-to-end offerings (largely for historical reasons: MDM came first, before MAM and MCM).

More on the differences between MDM, MAM, MCM and EMM in an upcoming blog!!

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