You’ve certainly heard that Apple this week pulled and reinstated Facebook’s and Google’s enterprise certificates that enable internal use of iOS apps. The backstory is quite the roller-coaster, but the ramifications go well beyond how Facebook and Google run questionable research programs. Does your company rely on iOS apps for critical functions? If so, buckle up.
We can debate Apple’s ultimate power over every other company that uses its products, but the lesson here is simple — regardless of whether Apple made the right call. If it happens to Google and Facebook, it can happen to you. And your episode won’t be resolved by next business day. Apple wasn’t making an example of its tech giant frenemies for shits and giggles.
This should be a stark reminder for every iOS user: You are playing in Apple’s garden. You paid Apple not only for your iPhone or iPad, but also to access the iOS world. And that access is contingent on playing by Apple’s rules. Consumers have lost access to their apps and data before, developers have had their projects banned, and now big companies are learning they’re no different.
If I was a Fortune 500 company and saw what Apple just did with Facebook and Google’s enterprise certificates, today would be the end of iOS enterprise development, full stop, and I would reluctantly begin moving every internal app and employee over to Android. https://t.co/mpanO3iRnB
— Jeremy Horwitz (@horwitz) January 31, 2019
I would like to take what my colleague Jeremy Horwitz suggests a bit further. If your business operations depend on Apple’s permission, do a full internal audit. Immediately.
Maybe everyone in your company is already aware of how powerful Apple is. Maybe they all even acknowledge that Apple does whatever is best for Apple, like any business. But I’m willing to bet that almost none of your employees have read Apple’s iOS development contracts. You know, the ones that your company agreed to in order to use iOS for internal operations, for testing, for anything and everything that your business requires.
Go back and go through these policies with a fine-tooth comb. Figure out what is in line with Apple’s rules, what is not, and what is in the gray area. Google’s and Facebook’s certificates were pulled over gray-area issues with enterprise development contracts. Can your company afford that sort of disruption?
Consider your alternatives. As Jeremy points out, the easiest solution is Google Play and Android devices, but that may not be your only one. Google may be easier to deal with than Apple, but make sure you know what you’re getting into before you move all your eggs from one basket to another.
Another option is to explore whether your company can move to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs are essentially mobile websites that mimic native apps. PWAs still work on Android and iOS, as well as other platforms. Because they’re cross-platform, you won’t be locking yourself into anything. Depending on what your iOS apps do, PWAs (and a VPN?) could be enough to ensure one company can’t stop your business in its tracks.
This week’s events are not substantially different from when we watched startups live and die on Facebook. The golden rule hasn’t changed: Don’t bet your business, or even just your business operations, on another company. Apple’s products may promise great security, but what good is that if all of your custom iOS apps might stop working over a contract dispute?
Running a business requires making bets and taking risks, but don’t ever declare you’re “all in” if you’re not the one holding the cards.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.