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Reality Check: Is Apple embracing the enterprise?

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column where C-level executives and advisory firms from across the mobile industry share unique insights and experiences.

Apple’s much anticipated event is finally here, and true to form with all Apple fall events rumors have been swirling for weeks about what the tech trendsetter is going to bring consumers. However, in deviating from its M.O. it’s not just about consumers, today’s reveal expands further to wow the CIOs responsible for creating and enforcing bring-your-own-device policies that keep the enterprise’s information safe and secure.

From the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple’s “iDevices” have traditionally been created with consumers in mind. But with the consumerization of IT, Apple has been thrust into the enterprise, leaving CIOs scrambling to ensure sensitive data is protected.

Apple has incorporated some enterprise-friendly features so that consumers will be allowed to continue to use their devices in a work environment. This move will also enable Apple to retain one of the top spots in a competitive space that a recent Markets and Markets report valued a $181 billion industry by 2017.

Apple’s latest features reveal that the company is taking BYOD seriously and that it wants to be embraced by enterprises as much as it has always been by consumers.

Let’s examine the evidence

Fingerprint scanner: This feature has been rumored to be a part of the next iPhone. While a fingerprint scanner still appeals to consumers as a cool tech attribute, it also shows that Apple is taking the enterprise’s needs seriously.

Passwords have long been condemned as being “not good enough,” and many security buffs would argue that multi-factor authentication – a security measure that requires two or more methods of identification – is much more secure than a password alone. Passwords are extremely easy for people to gain access to, and the fingerprint scanner not only adds a secondary level of security but also ensures that only the provisioned user is able to gain access to the device thanks to each person’s unique fingerprint.

Air Drop: iOS 7’s Air Drop feature allows users to share photos or documents from any app by simply tapping the share button. Apple’s own iOS 7 landing page highlights the fact that the data is sent over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth – both safe methods as long as the user is on a secure network – and that each transfer is encrypted to ensure the highest level of security.

This feature is similar to the way in which containerized applications work through a mobile application management solution, but now, Apple is making it easier than ever for employees to share critical data safely and easily via mobile without the need to deploy an entire solution across the enterprise.

Safari’s password generator: As passwords can be stolen with ease, Apple has integrated a new password generator feature into the latest version of Safari. With each new account that you set up, Safari will create a hard-to-guess, strong password that it will remember for you.

This method of protecting user logins is a departure from what some companies are doing with single sign-on – the idea of having one login for multiple applications – but time, and eventual hacks, will tell which solution is the most secure. As most CIOs know, while enterprises are implementing BYOD policies, many employees still bring their own applications, like Dropbox, and don’t necessarily follow the security protocols laid out by the company.

So while this feature speaks to the consumer’s need to remember less passwords and practice good password hygiene, it is IT departments who will happily accept a helping hand from Apple in securing sensitive information.

What can we expect to see?

Apple has once again done what Apple does best: excite its audience. Consumers will “ooh” and “aah” over the “iDevices’” sleek UIs and fancy, new tech features that have made Apple one of the most coveted brands in the world. But today, the audience that will really be wowed is the one that Apple did not originally intend to win over: the enterprise.

Tom Kemp is co-founder and CEO of Centrify, a software and cloud security provider that delivers solutions that centrally control, secure and audit access to on-premise and cloud-based systems, applications and devices. Under his leadership Centrify has become one of the fastest growing security vendors in the industry and has amassed over 4,500 customers including nearly 50% of the Fortune 50. Prior to Centrify Kemp held various executive, technical and marketing roles at NetIQ Corporation, Compuware Corporation, EcoSystems Software and Oracle Corporation. Mr. Kemp was also an Entrepreneur in Residence at Mayfield, a leading venture capital firm. He is an avid blogger on both the Centrify website and for Forbes.com. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and in history from the University of Michigan.

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