Apple MDM: traffic flow

When managing Apple iOS devices over the air, it’s important to remember two vital facts:

  • You can’t talk to the devices
  • The devices won’t (usually) proactively talk to you

This, naturally, leads to the question: how can you manage them? Enter Apple, the great intermediator.

Apple relies on its Apple Push Notification Services (APNS) to handle two distinct types of communications: “wake up” messages, and application notifications.

The latter is highly visible to users: app badge updates and other messages that are delivered via modal dialogs or the Notification Center. A third-party or enterprise in-house app must have one or more servers configured to talk to Apple to request that such notifications be delivered.

Wake up messages, however, are effectively invisible to end users, and are vital to MDM.

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Apple MDM: the basics, part 1

It’s perhaps not terribly surprising that many corporate customers of MDM (mobile device management) solutions don’t really understand how it works. The better MDM vendors provide enough information for the IT department to get the service running, but Apple is inscrutable, and in most environments everything “just works”, at least well enough to focus on other problems.

So let’s start with the basics and see where we land.

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Sign of the times

[RIM] said on Tuesday that it will launch its new Mobile Fusion device management software in the first quarter, allowing corporate IT staff to set and monitor rules for passwords, apps and software on a range of devices, including Apple’s iPad and iPhone, and smartphones using Google’s Android operating system.

via RIM to offer security features on iPhone, Androids | Reuters.

If you don’t read Asymco, I highly recommend doing so. Horace Dediu and Dirk Schmidt do an excellent job of piecing together the mobile industry numbers: sales, revenue, profit, market share, platform stickiness. Data analysis done carefully, thoughtfully, and in recognition of the limitations[*] of forecasting.

One clear trend emerging from Asymco’s analysis: RIM is in trouble. These days it’s hard to find anyone who will argue against that proposition, but when Horace first began beating the drum, it was a much more controversial assertion. Sales and profit were still growing, but the growth curves did not match the overall industry’s.

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