Updated SDK from Soti allows businesses to remotely control Apple mobile devices

IPads, iPod Touches and iPhones will gain a feature that has been available in PCs for years, Soti's CEO says

Businesses can now remotely control enterprise mobile applications developed for Apple's mobile platform with the latest version of Soti's MobiControl Software Developer Kit for iOS, announced Tuesday.

According to the Ontario, Canada, company, which specializes in software for managing and tracking devices, its SDK is the first to allow this function for iOS.

While remote-control technology is common on PCs, Soti CEO Carl Rodrigues said, iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches lacked this capability until now. Soti's SDK, which also offers other features, addresses a functionality gap in iOS products, he said.

"True remote control is not possible, officially, on an Apple device," said Rodrigues.

Apple does not allow remote-control capability on apps offered publicly in its App Store, because of security concerns, so Soti is making its SDK available only to developers of apps for internal use at enterprises. Apple's Developer Program has a specific program for enterprise mobile application developers, in which developers have to register with proof that they are creating software for a corporate environment. Unlike software offered in the App Store, those apps do not have to be approved by Apple.

Developers use Soti's SDK to create mobile applications with remote access capabilities. Only applications built with the SDK have the remote access feature, Rodrigues said. For example, if workers download the popular Angry Birds game to their iPhones, that application will not be accessible to the company's IT staff, he said.

In addition to remote access, the updated SDK includes tools for integrating other features in iOS apps. The updated SDK allows for file synchronization, location services, two-way chat, jailbreak monitoring, device information access and real-time messaging. Soti, though, emphasized the remote access feature because "it hasn't been done before," said Rodrigues.

The remote control feature, for example, would permit an enterprise help desk to troubleshoot a malfunctioning application, and the chat feature would allow them to communicate with the worker in the field while doing it. That would allow the worker to remain offsite instead of returning to the office for tech support.

Rodrigues blamed the lack of a remote-support capability in iOS on Apple's orientation toward consumers instead of businesses. He called it a critical function for troubleshooting and security purposes.

"There's a void here as these devices are actually being made to replace notebooks and desktops where this stuff has been around for years," said Rodrigues. Using the SDK allows the help desk "to just remote [the application] and see what is happening," he added.

While Soti may see Apple as out of touch with corporate IT needs, many enterprises seem to be adopting the iPad as it is.

Recent studies have shown that the iPad dominates the enterprise when IT departments are making tablet purchases. In the first quarter of 2012, 97.3 percent of tablets activated in the enterprise were iPads, a study revealed. Additional research found that 84 percent of IT departments considering tablet purchases in the second quarter will buy the iPad.

The multiple versions of Google's mobile OS, Android, and the slew of different devices running it have raised fragmentation concerns that have hindered its enterprise adoption, according to market research firm Gartner.

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Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
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