Flaws in iOS 6.1 May Bruise Apple's Business Appeal
All those iPhones now roaming the halls of businesses have had to spend some downtime for updates recently, thanks to flaws found in the latest version of iOS. With security always on the minds of corporate IT buyers -- and with new OSes from traditionally office-friendly BlackBerry and Microsoft waiting in the wings -- Apple can't afford any missteps with its software.
Feb 15, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Recent flaws found in Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 6.1, are raising questions about whether they could tarnish the iPhone's appeal in the enterprise.
Since its arrival in January, Apple has had to push a number of updates to fix problems with the OS. It released a minor upgrade, version 6.1.1, to address a connectivity issue with devices using the software.
More recently, a bug was discovered in the software's implementation of Microsoft ActiveSync, which allows an iOS device to sync contacts, calendar and email information with a computer or server.
The ActiveSync bug prompted Microsoft to recommend IT administrators block or throttle devices using iOS 6.1, or the performance of their Exchange servers could take a nosedive. Exchange is Microsoft's email and personal information management server software.
Yet another issue arose with the OS this week when it became widely known that a bug had been discovered in the passcode lock of the iPhone. With some effort, the flaw could be exploited by unauthorized users to access the contents of a phone.
Apple did not respond to our request for comment for this story.
Not Apple's Technology
Some of the problems with the OS aren't entirely Apple's fault, points out Yankee Group Research Director Carl Howe.
"It's important to remember that ActiveSync isn't Apple's technology," Howe told MacNewsWorld. "This is a proprietary technology component that it licenses from another company specifically for security and compatibility with Exchange."
While Apple may have a peripheral bug to that software module that is causing it to misbehave, Howe said it's more likely to be waiting for the module vendor -- Microsoft -- to fix the problem.
These bugs related to enterprise aspects of the iPhone are occurring as Apple's competitors are making moves to grab more action in the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) market, according to Michael Morgan, a mobile devices analyst with ABI Research.
With BlackBerry refreshing its product line and Samsung making a mobile device management play with its Safe product, the enterprise space is getting more competitive for Apple.
"At a time when there are an increasing amount of choices, to have iOS start to have these kinds of errors, its got to affect impressions for IT decision makers," Morgan told MacNewsWorld.
"There will always be bugs," he continued. "That's why we have updates, but to have these bugs at this point in time is just bad timing."
The recent problems with iOS could be age-related. "Maybe iOS is getting too heavy," Morgan said. "That's something that happens to Microsoft software over the years. Updates break things and the program starts to sag under its own weight."
Bugs aside, there's still plenty right with the iPhone to appeal to businesses, argued Ramon T. Llamas, a mobile device analyst with IDC. "The iPhone complies with enterprise policies that will keep it in good stead with IT managers," he told TechNewsWorld.
"It's not like the iPhone is spreading any viruses and causing anything to crash," Llamas added.
Nevertheless, BlackBerry remains the gold standard in security for an enterprise mobile device, he said, and Samsung has shown some smarts with Safe -- although it's challenged by the bad security reputation of Google's Android operating system.
"How safe is Safe?" Llamas asked. He recalled approaching Samsung salespersons after the initial release of Safe and asking them that queston.
"There were a lot of salespeople unprepared to tell a compelling story to a customer to bring back to their IT manager," he said.
Apple's never been that close to IT in the first place, asserted Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group. "Apple products tend to come into IT organizations regardless of whether the IT guys bless them or not," he told MacNewsWorld.
"It's not so much that these bugs affect the opinion of the business guys," Enderle said. "It does erode the idea of Apple providing a quality product. Apple sells the idea that you're getting a higher quality offering with white glove treatment, and every time they get problems like this it erodes that image."