Tags Developers

Apple adds server API to CloudKit, unlocking new developer possibilities for the iCloud service

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 19.09.37

Apple has quietly added a server-side API to CloudKit, following an announcement on the developer news blog. This will enable developers to add a lot of functionality to apps powered by CloudKit, enabling developers to interact with the iCloud CloudKit database outside of user interaction with iOS, Mac or web apps. The web service API enables developers to run independent code on servers that can add, delete and modify records in the CloudKit stack.

Until now, interaction with CloudKit has been limited to the APIs Apple provided in apps. Although this was useful, it lacked the options for more advanced use — most modern apps rely on servers to perform tasks whilst users are away. With the addition of the web API, developers can create many more types of applications using CloudKit as the backend. For instance, an RSS reader app can now add new feed items to the CloudKit stack from the server. Before, this action could only occur when a user opened a CloudKit-powered app, which was essentially impractical and meant developers had to use other tools.

Expect CloudKit adoption to rise with this announcement. The server capabilities dramatically increase the chance that a developer can use CloudKit for their new app where they wouldn’t have been able to before, as so many modern apps rely on some kind of persistent server component. The lack of native SDKs for non-Apple platforms may continue to limit uptake, however.

Parse, a similar cloud framework, has recently announced it will shut down next year. With the inclusion of a server side request endpoint, CloudKit is now positioned to fully replace Parse as a cloud database engine. The timing of the CloudKit announcement is probably coincidental, but it serves to attract ex-Parse users who are now actively looking for a new platform to build on. Developers can find more information on adopting the new CloudKit features here. For users, expect to see more capable iOS and Mac apps built on top of CloudKit in the future.

 


Filed under: Developers, iOS, iOS Devices Tagged: Apple, CloudKit, developers, icloud, Parse

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Benjamin Mayo

February 5th

Apple

Mac

Apple releases Xcode 7.2.1 with bug fixes and performance improvements

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 7.53.51 PM

Apple this evening has pushed a small update to its developer software Xcode. The update bumps the app to version 7.2.1, following the initial release of version 7.2 late last year. Xcode 7.2.1 carries the build number 7C1002 and includes a handful of under-the-hood fixes and improvements.

Apple says that a variety of bugs have been fixed with this evening’s Xcode update. Hiccups relating to the command line and debugger have been fixed, while the certificate used to developer Wallet passes, Safari Push Notifications, and Safari Extensions has also been updated. As usual, the company says there are “additional bug fixes and stability improvements,” as well.

The full changelog is below:

Fixed in Xcode 7.2.1:

• Command line tool ‘xcodebuild test’ will no longer time out waiting for Simulator.app to launch • Resolved a debugger crash that could occur in code depending on a binary Swift library or framework • Updated the certificate used to develop Apple Wallet passes, Safari Push Notifications, and Safari Extensions • Additional bug fixes and stability improvements

Xcode 7.2.1 is available now on the Mac App Store.

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Filed under: Developers Tagged: developers, update, Xcode

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Chance Miller

February 3rd

Apple

Mac

How a teenage app developer helped support his family using the App Store

Michael Sayman

Michael Sayman, known for creating the iOS game 4 Snaps, shared a story today on what it was like growing up in the world of iOS development at such a young age. After his first app’s major success at the age of 13, an app based on his Club Penguin blog, Sayman soon gained to media attention and began to travel the world sharing his story. In the profile, he delves into the irony of being paid to travel and tell this personal story on success, all the while his parents were struggling financially at home.

Sayamn also explains how he became the primary bill-payer for the household and what that was like for a teen in school.

All of my money was going to providing for my family. I didn’t think anything of it, because what was I going to do with $12,000 a month? I was 14! I didn’t need it for anything. I had already bought myself the highest-end Mac I could and the best iPhone I could. That was it for me. I didn’t want anything else.

But the pressure of paying the bills started to increase and my grades in middle school started to go down fast. I used to have A’s and B’s, and at that point started to get C’s and D’s.

Stories of app developers struggling in the App Store aren’t too uncommon, but to hear it come from someone who is so young is rare. Sayman describes the challenge of explaining to his parents what exactly it was that he was doing to pull in the amount of revenue he was each month. Now 19 years old, and a product manager at Facebook, he feels it is the time to “share what it’s like to succeed in a world where everything is falling down around you.” It’s certainly a standout, motivating experience worth reading about.

4 Snaps and the Club Penguin Cheats apps are available in the App Store for free with in-app purchases.


Filed under: Developers Tagged: 4Snaps, App Store, Club Penguin, developers, Facebook, iOS, iPhone, Michael Sayman

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Greg Barbosa

February 1st

Apple

Mac

Why the feature-light iOS 9.2.1 security update matters

Captive-Network Example

Three days ago Apple released an iOS 9.2.1 update with seemingly arbitrary ‘security updates and bug fixes’ listed in the release notes. As we’ve seen time and time again with these type of software updates, most often these small updates seem to go ignored by the general public. We stress how important it is to keep your device up to date, even with small security updates like this.

As is customary after Apple releases a security update version of iOS, the firms and people that discovered the vulnerabilities are coming out explaining how and why these security updates matter. Apple has already included a breakdown of what security issues were resolved in iOS 9.2.1, but it’s still nice to get a further detailed look into what made the vulnerabilities possible in the first place.

SkyCure, a company helping in threat defense in EMM and MDM solutions, released a blog post this week detailing their discovery while noting that Apple had finally resolved it.

The security issue (CVE-2016-1730) was reported back in June of 2013, but SkyCure notes that it was a more complicated issue to fix than one would imagine. SkyCure’s discovery relates to the way iOS handles cookies when connecting to a malicious captive-enabled Wi-Fi network. You may have seen these types of networks if you’ve ever connected to a hotel, airport or Starbucks network.

On Thursday, security researchers at Zimperium zLabs had also released a report analyzing how their vulnerability (CVE-2016-1722) was discovered. This vulnerability appears to have taken less than two months to resolve. Zimperium’s discovery revolved around a heap buffer overflow in syslogd that would allow an attacker to have elevated privileges or even perform remote code execution (although this would require the device to be on an already trusted Wi-Fi network).

Starbucks_CaptiveNetwork

As the desire for better security, privacy, and encryption increases, I welcome the security researchers’ work and Apple’s “minor” update. Even if they don’t include any exciting new features, like new emoji.


Filed under: Developers, iOS Tagged: EMM, iOS, iOS 9.2.1, MDM, privacy, Security, SkyCure, Updates, Zimperium

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Greg Barbosa

January 22nd

Apple

Mac

OS X 10.11.3 hits the Mac App Store for all users

MacBook OS X El Capitan

Heads up to all El Capitan users: OS X 10.11.3 is now available through the Mac App Store. Apple released the first developer beta version of the software update in mid-December after shipping OS X 10.11.2 earlier in the month. The second OS X 10.11.3 beta followed at the start of January. Apple has since started testing OS X 10.11.4.

As the version number suggests, OS X 10.11.3 so far hasn’t included any major feature changes or enhancements, although we’ll update our coverage if anything significant is discovered.

The update further addresses lingering bugs and performance issues hanging around the Mac software. The last OS X El Capitan beta once again saw AT&T’s NumberSync feature for bridging iPhone phone numbers to the Mac return, for example, after the feature was trialled in previous releases.

The upcoming OS X 10.11.4 release includes new features like secure password protected Notes and Live Photo viewing in the Messages app and sharing over iMessage.

OS X 10.11.3 release notes

As ever, head to the Mac App Store and look for the new release in the Updates tab. Be sure to shout our way if you discover anything new and experience any issues with the software. The download runs about 661 MB in total and does require a restart.


Filed under: Developers, Mac Tagged: el capitan, Mac App Store, OS X, OS X 10.11.3

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Zac Hall

January 19th

Apple

Mac

iOS 9 code suggests iPhone 7 could experiment with Li-Fi tech, likely confirms headphone jack going away

iPhone no headphone jack

My cheap headphone jack-less iPhone mockup

It’s been widely reported that the iPhone 7 is destined to ditch the dated headphone jack in favor of wireless audio solutions and a Lightning adapter for wired headphones and speakers, and now internal iOS software code seems to all but confirm the rumor. Jailbreaker @kyoufujibaya claims to have discovered a reference to ‘Headphones.have.%sinput.NO.’ within the latest iOS 9.3 beta 1.1 software release, which would appear to be related to the transition from 3.5 mm headphones to alternative solutions on iPhones. The same jailbreaker also has another interesting discovery based on the iPhone’s codebase …

While unconfirmed, my first guess is that the headphone reference could be existing code that lets iOS know if external speakers are connected or disconnected as iOS 9 uses this status for certain Proactive features and much more, although it’s interesting to consider in the context of the iPhone 7 likely losing the current port.

The same jailbreaker shared a purported discovery a few weeks back referencing Li-Fi technology being used with iOS, which suggests Apple could be testing the new technology for future iPhones and iPads. Specifically, @kyoufujibaya recently tweeted a screenshot of the iOS 9.1 codebase highlighting ‘LiFiCapability’ while suggesting the tech could be in testing for the iPhone 7 later this year.

For the uninitiated like myself, here’s an explainer on what exactly Li-Fi technology does:

Li-Fi (Light Fidelity) is a bidirectional, high speed and fully networked wireless communication technology similar to Wi-Fi. The term was coined by Harald Haas[1] and is a form of visible light communication and a subset of optical wireless communications (OWC) and could be a complement to RF communication (Wi-Fi or Cellular network), or even a replacement in contexts of data broadcasting. It is so far measured to be about 100 times faster than some Wi-Fi implementations, reaching speeds of 224 gigabits per second.[2]

It is wireless and uses visible light communication or infra-red and near ultraviolet (instead of radio frequency waves) spectrum, part of optical wireless communications technology, which carries much more information, and has been proposed as a solution to the RF-bandwidth limitations.[3]

As Apple relies on wireless technology in favor of thick, dust-collecting ports, the move to headphone jack-less iPhones with Li-Fi speed connectivity doesn’t seem surprising in the least. Wireless transfer 100x that of Wi-Fi would make for an excellent iPhone keynote slide someday.

As for the new iPhone 7 going headphone jack-less, Mark Gurman has reported that Apple through Beats is developing a new set of truly wireless earbuds that can be charged via their protective carrying case, which in turn gets recharged, that will debut before or around the same time as the new iPhone hardware.

And 9to5Mac readers seem overwhelmingly in favor of Apple moving beyond the headphone jack for what it’s worth. My colleague Ben Lovejoy wrote his take on the likely move last month, agreeing that it’s likely destined for the iPhone 7 and no later than the iPhone 8. And now there’s faster Li-Fi to possibly look forward to as well … I wonder how this potential change could improve AirPlay?


Filed under: Developers, iOS, iOS Devices Tagged: Headphone Jack, iPhone 7, kyoufujibaya, Li-Fi, Lightning, Wi-Fi

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Zac Hall

January 19th

Apple

Mac

Apple’s EEO-1 statement shows small change in employee diversity for 2015

hero_diversity_5

Over the weekend, Apple posted its latest EEO-1 statement: the Equal Employment Opportunity form follows government regulations to note diversity of Apple’s employee base (via AppleInsider). The newly-released 2015 statement shows that 30 percent of Apple’s employees in the United States are female, a rise of 1% over the numbers posted in the 2014 statement. Black and Hispanic employees make up 8.6 percent and 11.7 percent of the workforce, respectively.

At an executive level, Apple continues to be heavily stacked towards white men. The report says that Apple’s senior officials, executives and managers are 83 percent are male, and 83 percent are white.

That being said, it’s worth noting that Apple refutes the EEO-1 process. It says that the federally-enforced survey is outdated and does not reflect reality. The company’s own numbers paint itself in a much better light, claiming >50% growth in employment of black, Hispanic and female hires.

This is how Tim Cook talks about Apple’s diversity efforts in a letter posted on its Diversity site last year. On that same page, Apple pours cold water on the EEO-1 numbers, explaining that whilst it is a benchmark for comparison across companies, it is not how Apple measures its progress. Apple has not updated its diversity site with the latest data however.

Last year we reported the demographics of our employees for the first time externally, although we have long prioritized diversity. We promised to improve those numbers and we’re happy to report that we have made progress. In the past year we hired over 11,000 women globally, which is 65 percent more than in the previous year. In the United States, we hired more than 2,200 Black employees — a 50 percent increase over last year — and 2,700 Hispanic employees, a 66 percent increase. In total, this represents the largest group of employees we’ve ever hired from underrepresented groups in a single year. Additionally, in the first 6 months of this year, nearly 50 percent of the people we’ve hired in the United States are women, Black, Hispanic, or Native American.

Apple says the EEO-1 statement ‘has not kept pace with changes in industry or the American workforce over the past half century’. It’s unclear what Apple means by this exactly, but it at least addresses the discrepancies. Apple says its own data is a more accurate representation of reality. Regardless of whether you agree with the methodologies, Apple’s diversity stats are better than most of the industry.

Apple has also made a big note of highlighting the role of women in its company over the last few years. Following Ahrendts high-profile appointment to SVP in 2014, Apple gave demo time to two female managers on its keynote stage: Jennifer Bailey (presenting Apple Pay) and Susan Prescott (presenting Apple News). Bailey also appeared at the Code/Mobile conference earlier in the year.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.54.58


Filed under: AAPL Company, Developers, iOS, iOS Devices Tagged: Apple, Discrimination, diversity, EEO-1, gender, Government, iOS, racial

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Benjamin Mayo

January 19th

Apple

Mac

App Store app prices going up in Canada, New Zealand and 5 more countries due to exchange rate fluctuations

app-prices

Apple has notified developers that App Store prices in Canada, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and South Africa are increasing. Customers in these regions will see prices for apps and in-app purchases rise within the next 72 hours. If you have a renewing subscription, Apple will notify you with an email about the price change ahead of the next subscription payment, although customers in Russia and South Africa will have to resubscribe manually.

Low price tiers are also being introduced into Canadian and New Zealand markets; Alternate Price Tier A and Alternate Prier Tier B. These offer alternate price increments for developers, useful for smaller items like In-App Purchases. In emerging markets, the alternate tiers are extremely cheap, often as low as 20 cents USD when converted. The price differential for Canada and New Zealand will not be as drastic.

Prices in Romanian App Store are remaining the same for customers, but developers will see slightly increased profits on every sale due to changes in regional VAT changing from 24% to 20%.

Expect to see the price changes roll out to the App Store in affected countries over the next three days. Apple adjusts prices periodically in response to exchange rate changes.


Filed under: AAPL Company, Apps, Developers, iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: Apps, developer, developers, iOS

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Benjamin Mayo

January 18th

Apple

Mac

Swift is quickly rising in popularity as a developer language … but how much is Apple using Swift?

Swift 16-9

The TIOBE index uses search engine rankings to track popularity of programming languages. In January, Swift overtook Objective-C to become the 14th most popular language in the TIOBE index. The surge in popularity was spurred by the release of Swift into open-source in December. With developer interest growing, Ryan Olson was interested in how much Apple is using Swift for its own apps.

Despite producing the language, Apple is not ahead of the curve on Swift adoption. In his blog post, Olson finds that in iOS 9.2 only one Apple app uses Swift: Calculator.

Swift has quickly gained popularity among many third party developers, but what about for Apple’s own code? As of iOS 9.2, Calculator.app is the only place in the system that you’ll find any Swift. I expected to find at least a few other apps or frameworks that had incrementally adopted Swift for new code, but that doesn’t appear to be the case for now.

Calculator.app is actually almost “pure Swift” with only 2 of its 22 classes written in Objective-C. Just like third party apps that use Swift, Calculator.app has to bundle the Swift libraries it links to. There are no Swift libraries included with the OS because the ABI is not yet stable.

Calculator is being used as a testbed for Swift within Apple, apparently, written mostly in the new language. However, it’s the only stock app to use Swift. Usage beyond Calculator in iOS is non-existent. For its apps in the App Store, Apple has used Swift for its Apple Store Watch app and some parts of the WWDC app. On The Talk Show, Craig Federighi said that the OS X 10.11 Dock uses Swift. Beyond these cases, however, Swift usage in public Apple code is non existent.

Apple isn’t lagging behind for no reason. Federighi said Apple engineers are free to use Swift where it makes sense. Accounting for normal development timelines, the community is generally expecting significant uptake of Swift for Apple’s apps going forward, especially with OS X 10.12 and iOS 10 later in the year. The interoperability with Objective-C makes it straightforward for engineers to add Swift features gradually into existing projects.

A big factor for the lack of update is that the Swift Application Binary Interface (ABI) is not locked down. Until this happens, a goal for Swift 3, it is practically impossible for Apple to make stable Swift frameworks without breaking application compatibility with every release.


Filed under: AAPL Company, Developers, iOS, iOS Devices, Mac Tagged: Apple, developers, iOS, Swift

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Benjamin Mayo

January 18th

Apple

Mac

Ex-Jailbreakers now working to secure iOS for consumers and enterprises with comprehensive platform

IMG_2435 IMG_2434

For nearly half a decade, teams of hackers and programmers have worked tirelessly to crack Apple’s iOS software code in order to inject new features, themes, and applications. Now, a team led by noted former jailbreak developers Will Strafach, otherwise known as “Chronic”, and Joshua Hill, known as P0sixninja, is working to secure Apple’s mobile platform. The duo, along with a list of unnamed former jailbreak developers, has been working on a new comprehensive platform to secure iOS devices for both enterprises and consumers. Strafach provided us with a preview of the platform known as “Apollo,” the first security product from his new company Sudo Security Group.

In a phone interview, Strafach started out by answering the likely first question of those who may be interested in such an application: why should jailbreak developers be trusted with securing devices? As Strafach explained, he and his team likely know more about the inner-workings of iOS and other mobile platforms than any other group of developers, save for those at Apple, because of their experience in tinkering with the operating system’s core.

“We know the iOS system inside and out due to the years we’ve spent buried in disassembly tools seeing how things work. We know what weak spots to keep a close eye on, we know what bits are bloated and may be vulnerable in ways which have not yet been considered,” Strafach said, adding that his team has now “taken on the equally important task of figuring out how to make things better” instead of just figuring “out how to make things break.”

The Apollo security platform, as Strafach explained, can be broken down into two parts: the enterprise path and the consumer application. Let’s start with the enterprise software. Many large corporations use Mobile Device Management software, known as an “MDM” service to manage large numbers of iPhones or iPads, for example, that are used by their employees. For instance, Apple offers its own native tool while major software developer VMWare has its own solution called AirWatch.

The Apollo suite moves to differentiate itself by focusing on security: at a high level, the application uses a backend service known as “Guardian” that scans applications installed on a user’s iPhone to check if the applications include code that can steal user data, inject malware, make background installation attempts, conduct email-based phishing, and weaken the file system’s security. Specifically, Strafach shared the following list of application security checks that Apollo is capable of for employees that bring their own devices to the enterprise:

  • Leakage of sensitive data (Intentionally, or due to insecure connections)
  • Communications with servers in a non-allowed/sanctioned region(s)
  • Utilization of private and/or privacy-invading APIs
  • Binary download attempts from unsafe sources
  • Suspicious application behaviors which may require a second-look

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The service also has a long list of stronger security features for devices given to employees, not brought by employees into the enterprise:

  • Strict application whitelist and blacklisting abilities
  • Lock down devices as much or as little as needed, configurable based on user group or even individual users
  • Disable system applications such as App Store, Messages, and more.
  • Disable system features such as screenshots, data sync, and more.
  • Web content filtering, both liberal and strong options available
  • Heavy monitoring for network I/O activity to watch out for threats
  • Activation Lock Assistant – Never get locked out of a company-owned device by a personal Apple ID again!
  • Special case malware monitoring – Assure dangerous skimming malware does not find it’s way to your point-of-sale iPad or iPhone.
  • Block removal of our MDM and protection software from the device – Even if a hard reset / restore (“DFU Restore”) is performed!
  • Perform full system data wipe to be performed at any time
  • Prevent company-owned devices which were lost or stolen from ever being used again

Richard Lutkus, an eDiscovery attorney who is also a company advisor at Sudo Security Group, told us that the software is ideal for companies wanting 100% control over their own corporate data on untrusted end points, especially with Sudo application security monitoring software that ensures the device stays malware free and compliant. This is relevant as some companies now ask employees to bring their own hardware. However, Lutkus made it clear to us that the software balances user privacy by sheltering personal data away from the manager of the Apollo system.

  • Perfect isolation of personal data and sensitive Work Data.
  • Wipe any Work-related contents from the device, while not touching any personal data.
  • Maintain full control over anything Work-related on all BYOD devices, while allowing users to still maintain full control over their personal applications and data with no compromises needed.

Beyond identifying and preventing potential attacks, Apollo has a remediation system integrated for fixing breaches:

  • Shape policies to encourage self-remediation by end users to streamline processes and reduce IT workload
  • Create powerful workflows to fit different levels of security problems
  • Send message to device owner to inform them of any detected security violation.
  • Send message to manager of device owner or IT department to inform them of detected security violations.
  • Automatically generate IT helpdesk tickets for more serious violations
  • Remove non-compliant applications from work devices.
  • Prevent access to Work Apps until security problems are fixed.
  • Prevent access to Work Email until security problems are fixed.
  • Prevent access to Work VPN until security problems are fixed
  • Prevent connection to Work WiFi network until security problems are fixed.
  • Prevent use of Single-Sign On until security problems are fixed.
  • Prevent ability to open Work Documents and Data until security problems are fixed.
  • Require system Re-scan in Security Center Agent after problems are fixed to ensure that system integrity is intact and no threats are present.

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Besides all the deeply technical details and features, perhaps the most intriguing capability for the enterprise suite is its Touch ID integration as a “dead man’s switch.” This system would throw a pop up at the user every certain amount of days, like every 5 days in the above example, that asks the user to authenticate their fingerprint. This system is designed to ensure that the device is still being used by its owner. This is an interesting use case for Touch ID that goes beyond simply logging into an application. Strafach explained that this “provides a cryptographically secure and verified mechanism for verifying that a user themselves is in possession of a device. There is no workaround besides using the genuine fingerprint of the user due to the way we have leveraged PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) and the device’s built-in Secure Enclave to undoubtably verify device possession.”

The enterprise system also has a simple method for blocking employee access to certain types of applications. For example, a CTO could ensure that employees running on a device with the Apollo platform cannot install apps that access contacts or retrieve GPS data. Strafach tells us that the system is customizable to either completely block installation or simply send a warning to the individual employee. Strafach tells us that the server used for analyzing applications would need to be hooked into a company’s on-premise or cloud-based server infrastructure. His team, however, also hopes to roll out a small business version in the future that works around this current requirement.

Due to App Store limitations, Strafach says that the aforementioned consumer application cannot actually read which other apps a user has installed, so its capabilities revolve around checking for malware in the OS and connections to malicious servers. In our interview, Strafach touched upon this and the general App Store approval process:

In the consumer-level app, we have indeed been able to be creative about adding useful detections in an App Store compliant way. But there are certain things which are off-limits to the allowed APIs, as everyone knows, so that is one way our enterprise offering ties into this. The Apple MDM Enterprise APIs allow gathering more information than what App Store complaint APIs allow, so we have leveraged this to benefit users as well. The company wants data to be kept secure and assure sensitive data cannot leak out, so part of this involves utilizing our binary analysis engine to assure that certain invasive apps won’t be loaded on devices. If we are already doing that though, it made sense to us to take this a step further: We have added detections which companies may not care as much about, but which a user absolutely would in terms of their privacy, such as applications which send your location or gender to advertising providers. This increases the incentive for employees to enroll their devices in their employer’s BYOD program as it can actually benefit them, allowing us to distance our offering further away from the current notion of being a “big brother” type solution that is forced onto devices, and instead create an experience that benefits both sides.

Strafach tells us that his company plans to release the enterprise system during the first half of 2016. Special pilot programs and a beta of the free consumer application will become available for 9to5Mac readers in the near future. A website to register interest is also now live, and it will soon be updated with additional information on the platform.


Filed under: Developers, Enterprise, iOS, iOS Devices Tagged: @chronic, Apollo, consumers, enterprise, iOS, iPad, iPhone, jailbreakers, jailbreaking, Joshua Hill, MDM, P0sixninja, Richard Lutkus, Security, Sudo Security Group, Will Strafach

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Mark Gurman

January 17th

Apple

Mac
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