Apple devices only? That's not BYOD

Given the choice, most users tend to want iPhones and iPads, so some IT organizations are standardizing on Apple. But that's just another way of hobbling user empowerment

In its third year, the BYOD battle rages on, though most organizations allow some form of bring your-own-device these days, even if just for email, calendar, and contacts access. The fight occurs at several levels: employees seeking freedom from technological micromanagement and for tools that work best for them as individuals; IT seeking to reduce risk and/or assert control around issues of compliance, legal exposure, and sometimes paternalistic business culture; and management wanting to have its cake and eat it too relating to freedom and risk avoidance.

As a result, some companies want to boil the ocean -- trying to validate, document, and actively support every Android device an employee might choose. Alternatively, they impose draconian restrictions through mobile management technology on what devices can do (leading to unsafe work-arounds by employees) -- or, less often, give up and do nothing. Bask Iyer, CIO of Juniper Networks, has a different approach: Formally adopt Apple technologies as IT standards as co-equals to Windows PCs and BlackBerry smartphones.

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Iyer said this week his company judged that when employees asked for BYOD, they really meant they wanted Apple products: Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Rather than open up to a true, heterogeneous BYOD environment, Juniper decided to simply give employees Apple products if they wanted them.

That's a very IT point of view -- formalize something as a standard and tell users to accept the standard or, if there are several co-equal options, one of them. As I'll explain, IT today could indeed pull off OS X as such a formal standard. But such an approach misses the impulse underlying BYOD, which is that users choose endpoint technology, not IT. Although I like Apple's current products and believe they would do well for many business users, that's not the point. The point is IT shouldn't dictate devices; it should focus on policies instead regardless of endpoints.

Today's Apple portfolio is quite manageable by IT
It's true that the nonstandard devices that have made real headway into business environments are all from Apple. Android smartphones outsell iPhones widely among everyday users, but few make it into corporations, even with the progress in support security and management needs in Google's Android 4.x OS and the extra capabilities provided by both Motorola Mobility and Samsung on their smartphones. Whatever the reason, the reality is it's Apple's product suite that business IT is dealing with as the new frontier.

So why not formalize that and issue Macs, iPads, and iPhones as standard corporate equipment, with the equivalent controls, restrictions, and (if any) freedoms allowed Windows PCs? Apple has come a long way in its enterprise support, even if most IT organizations don't know that. Through its configuration profile capabilities and its full-disk encryption introduced in OS X Lion and strengthened in OS X Mountain Lion, IT can manage Macs very much like Windows PCs.

With the major networking vendors adding management capabilities for Apple's chatty Bonjour networking protocol -- the backbone of AirPlay streaming for presentations and videos and AirPrint for driverless printing from any Apple device -- the Apple lineup not only plays well in traditional corporate environments. It also provides real value by making collaboration easier for not just in-the-office workers, as well as hoteling and mobile workers, contractors, and business partners.

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