Today Apperian is announcing an app that allows iOS to be controlled remotely through a browser using EASE, their mobile app management platform. This is a big deal, since until now remote-control apps have only been available for jailbroken devices.
Using remote control with Apperian is just like using any other remote desktop, except that it’s not a desktop, it’s iOS. The mobile device runs an agent app, which is designed around ensuring end-user privacy. Users have to kick off sessions by sending a one-time pin to the remote admin; users specify which apps are and aren’t allowed to be opened; the notification bar turns red and displays the name of the admin to remind the user that the device is being controlled; and users can end the session at any time. Otherwise, administrators are able to have full access, with the remote protocol transferring touch gestures down to the device. Admins get in to the sessions through the EASE web app, Apperian’s cloud-based mobile app management interface.
Our conversation didn’t get into how the remoting protocols work, but they said they built their own. Apperian also has a version of the agent app made for kiosk-based iPads, but somebody has to be at the device to launch the app in the first place.
Where things get interesting
The remote control agent app can only be distributed by companies enrolled in the iOS Developer Enterprise Program. This means that the app gets signed and thus receives permission to run on iOS from an individual corporation, not from Apple. This also means that Apperian’s agent app is not subject to the scrutiny of Apple App Store inspection. Now remember, to date there have been no remote-control apps in the App Store. Since a remote control app has to dig pretty deep into the OS compared to a typical app, it’s only natural to wonder whether or not this would pass muster with Apple, or if it’s taking advantage of the lack of inspection to do something a publicly-available app wouldn’t be allowed to do. I asked Apperian if this was the case, and their reply was that they don’t approve apps—Apple does, and that their intention is not to submit to the App Store, only to aim to the enterprise.
We could talk a lot about Apple’s strategy for approving apps, but overall it would be advantageous if it this were to come to the public App Store—I know that I want it, along with a million other nerds—but again, up until now the only way to do remote-control on iOS has been through jailbreaking. So after all, why would this app be allowed when clearly none have in the past? For now, though, the iOS Enterprise Developer Certificate distribution will have to be the answer. (Apperian mentioned that the app could potentially be signed with an individual iOS Developer Certificate, so at least that’s another option.)
Getting back to the product itself—remote control could be Apperian’s killer feature for a lot of customers, even ones that might not have been all that interested in MAM. And the app definitely makes it on my short list of the coolest products and features that I’ve seen this year.
For more, also check out this article by fellow TechTargeter Jim Furbush.