Anyone wanting to buy mobile device management (MDM) software to manage Apple iOS devices need a special digital certificate from Apple to activate it, a requirement that doesn't apply to the same MDM software when used to manage Google Android devices, for instance.
MDM software -- such as that from MobileIron, Good Technology, Sybase, AirWatch, McAfee, and Symantec -- is loaded onto mobile smartphones and tablets to allow IT managers to keep track of employee equipment, to remotely wipe these devices and to apply security controls. Enterprises buying MDM software to manage Apple iOS devices are sometimes surprised to find out about the Apple digital certificate requirement that they must obtain.
[ Updated for iOS 5, Android 4, BlackBerry OS 7, and Windows Phone 7.5: Learn how to manage mobile devices in InfoWorld's 20-page Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]
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When design firm Holly Hunt decided to manage its Apple iPads with BoxTone's MDM software, IT managers there found out they had to apply to Apple for a signed digital certificate for the MDM software in order to activate it. "It was a long process, but now we're a licensed Apple software developer," says Neil Goodrich, director of business analytics and technology at Holly Hunt, about last year's application process with Apple that took more than a month and resulted in a signed digital certificate that not only activated the BoxTone MDM software to manage the firm's Apple devices, but also gave the Holly Hunt the right to create its own iOS apps.
However, enough people last year found this particular Apple MDM certificate-issuance process cumbersome, so in September 2011 Apple changed it, explains MDM vendor AirWatch. (Apple itself did not respond to an inquiry asking for clarity on why it demands the signed digital certificate for MDM.) "In September, Apple changed the process," says Blake Brandon, technical consultant at AirWatch, who says the older certificate-issuance process with Apple used to cost $300 but the simpler process today is free. He says now the Apple MDM digital-certificate issuance process only takes a few days at most. But what you get now does not include the Apple software developer license but only what's called the Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) certificate. (To get the Apple software developer license, you now have to apply separately and go through what is a more involved registration process.)