Deploying the IPhone 3G for Business, Part 1
Device Options in the iPhone Configuration Utility
As noted earlier, the iPhone Configuration Utility offers more than its Web-based counterpart. One is the ability to view information about iPhones currently connected to a computer and to build a library of information about all iPhones that have been connected to that computer. While these features are most useful for deploying or testing in-house applications, they have other benefits.
The Connected Devices list in the sidebar provides easy access in its Summary tab to information about an iPhone that's similar to information displayed in an iPhone's Summary tab in iTunes: the iPhone name, storage capacity, firmware version, serial number, a unique identifier (beyond what shows in iTunes), the date it was last connected and the phone number associated with it. As an option, you can associate a user's name and e-mail address with an iPhone.
The Provisioning Profiles tab allows you to see what provisioning profiles -- used to allow installation and use of in-house applications -- are installed on the phone. The Applications tab provides a view of all installed applications, including name, application identifier and version number. Both of these tabs are primarily related to the development and installation of in-house applications rather than purchased from the App Store.
Finally, when an iPhone is connected, you can view its log file using the Console tab. While this is mainly used to address issues with the development of in-house applications, it also provides a wide range of information about general use of the iPhone and any problems that crop up. The log can be filtered to find specific search terms -- typing "wi-fi" into the search box, for example, shows information about networks the iPhone has accessed -- and can be saved as a file for later review. The Console is available only while a device is connected.
Although these features are useful as an option for maintaining information about iPhones in your environment, particularly if they were centrally activated while the iPhone Configuration Utility was running, or for troubleshooting, their primary use revolves around in-house applications, which I'll cover in part 3 of this series.
Overall Impressions: Activation and Configuration
Although this isn't intended as a review, I can't help but make a couple of observations about the ways that Apple has chosen to implement iPhone enterprise activation and configuration.
The adoption of configuration files and the ability to use iTunes solely as a mechanism for activating or restoring an iPhone has answered some of the concerns about its use as an enterprise device. IT staffers can manage the general activation process and rely on configuration files to configure network settings like Wi-Fi and VPN use and e-mail/Exchange access. The setup also allows company-specific security certificates to be used.
These are both good first steps. The fact that configuration files allow for the configuration of features outside of Exchange means companies not running Exchange still benefit from some automatic setup options. The downside: Apple's implementation of configuration files still leaves their ultimate use up to the user and doesn't provide a way of enforcing either their use or updates.
Another feature that would be helpful in future iPhone updates is the ability to automatically install free or site/volume-licensed third-party applications such as those available via the App Store. As applications aimed at business use and productivity emerge, this will become increasingly important and it seems only logical that Apple should eventually address it.
Ryan Faas is a frequent Computerworld contributor specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. You can find more information about him at RyanFaas.com.
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