Enterprise Efficiency – Jailbreaking the Enterprise

Jailbreaking — modifying the software of an iPhone or other device to run programs and utilities not approved by the vendor — has always been considered the domain of hackers and hobbyists, not serious enterprise IT. One reason is that device vendors have done their best to cast the practice as dangerous or even illegal. But this week’s decision by the Library of Congress (yes, the Library of Congress) to grant a jailbreaking exception to the DMCA could change all that.Could it be time for enterprise IT to move beyond the arbitrary bonds imposed by mobile vendors to create the apps and tweaks that meet their needs, regardless of whether the vendors approve?

And make no mistake, vendor approval is every bit as arbitrary and proprietary as you’ve heard. Apple, for example, actually claimed that the practice of jailbreaking would provide aid to terrorists and drug dealers, and warned that it could crash cell towers! No, really, they actually said that!

At the same time, however, Apple has long maintained a program designed to let enterprises create their own apps and distribute them via private app stores not available to the public and — just as important — not subject to App Store approval. So the company knows the value of the concept.

But Apple has still strictly controlled what even enterprise apps can do, as its SDK does not give full and complete access to all aspects of the iPhone OS. Before iOS 4 for example, you could not have more than one Microsoft Exchange account at the same time. The estimated 10 percent of iPhones that have been jailbroken allowed users to avoid that restriction if they wished. Multitasking was also possible on jailbroken devices long before Apple decided to support that capability. Similarly, apps and utilities that tweak the interface to highlight your corporate apps aren’t allowed, but could be very beneficial to your enterprise and its users.

Most of the time, your enterprise may not care about these things. But sometimes you will. And now that jailbreaking is expressly legal, there’s no need to be afraid. If you need to change something to suit your company’s needs, and you know how to make it happen, there’s no legal reason NOT to do it. Enterprises are now free to modify the iPhone — and other devices — to their hearts’ content.

It’ll probably void your warranty of course, but that’s a small price to pay for the freedom to create a smartphone that does EXACTLY what your enterprise wants it do, even as it leverages the latest and greatest mobile platforms. Just be careful that your development folks don’t turn into hackers bent on subverting vendor controls at all costs instead of focusing on the business benefits to your enterprise. I’ve seen it happen!

Enterprise Efficiency – Fredric Paul – Jailbreaking the Enterprise.

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