Last week Apple announced the launch of a Mac App Store with the next release of Mac OS next year in a drive to bring some of the best ideas from the iPhone and iPad back into Mac OS. And indeed the concept of the app store has been one of the key factors that helped to transform “smart phones” into “app phones” and make the iPhone and iPad such a success story. Making it that easy for developers to monetize their efforts and even easier for consumers to download and install additional applications was just plain brilliant.
Having said that, the public app store concept is great for consumers, but doesn’t really work for organisations that want to have full control over the mobile applications they deploy. But hey, who says you can not have your own app store?
During our internal Sybase Mobile Sales deployment we’ve made some modifications to the application that we need to get out to our account managers’ iPhones, so let’s take that as an example of how to deploy an application via your very own “enteprise app store” using Afaria – the mobile device management suite from Sybase.
Create the .ipa file
To get started we run the build process in Xcode for the Mobile Sales application that we’ve modified, which produces a signed application, packaged up in a folder called ‘icrm.app’. I then re-package that ‘icrm.app’ folder in a folder called ‘Payload’, add a jpg or png icon as file ‘iTunesArtwork’ in the root directory and zip the artwork together with the ‘Payload’ folder into a file called ‘icrm.ipa’. It is also well worthwhile scripting these steps so that Xcode can directly spit out .ipa files.
The next important input is the provisioning profile, which is generated via the iOS provisioning portal. For test purposes a normal iOS developer account will do. For a serious enterprise wide deployment of your app an iOS enterprise account will be required. Further details about the iOS Developer Program and the provisioning portal can be found at http://developer.apple.com
Define the package
With this I can now configure what is called a ‘package’ in Sybase Afaria, basically consisting of the application name, the .ipa file, the provisioning profile and two images.
Available for download
Once this ‘package’ has been assigned to an iOS device that is managed by Sybase Afaria the user has two ways of downloading the application.
The first option is to start the Afaria client on the device, where the user can browse or search for applications and install them.
The other option is to use Afaria’s provisioning portal to download and install the application directly from a web page as shown below.
And there’s more …
There are tons of other features for pretty much every mobile device platform in Afaria and I can only encourage you to take a closer look at Afaria or another mobile device management solution as part of your enterprise mobility initiative. Otherwise you might be missing some crucial capabilities when it’s time to rollout or support the mobile application that you’ve built.