A lot of people don’t know it, but there is a way to deploy Enterprise Line of Business (LOB) applications to employee iPhones without using the Apple appstore. It definitely has its caveats. But, it’s worth knowing about.
If your company has 500 or more employees, you can buy an iPhone “Enterprise” developer license. It’s a bit more then the “Standard” individual and company licenses, but not much. For more on developer licenses, go here.
Once you have the license, you can sign your LOB apps with your certificate and provision them to company devices. ”Enterprise” developer licensing allows what is called “Universal” application provisioning. This is the same type of provisioning that is granted to applications deployed through the Apple Appstore and allows deployment of the application to any iPhone on the face of the Earth.
Wow, so with a developer license, you can deploy an app to any iPhone out there without going through the appstore….WRONG! The “Enterprise” developer license EULA that you accepted dicatates that you are only allowed to deploy apps to iPhones operated by employees of your company. Deployment to any other iPhones is illegal. And, I’m absolutely sure that Apple is not going to stand by and let you break the law.
Well, you can deploy your LOB app to your company users and that’s the important thing, right? At this point, you may be wondering how you go about deploying the application to the employee-operated iPhone. There are currently two ways to do it. Use the iPhone Configuration Utility (iPCU) or use Apple iTunes. Both methods are described in the Apple iPhone Enterprise Deployment Guide.
The caveat here is that neither iPCU or iTunes app deployment can be performed directly between the iPhone and a server. Both iPCU and iTunes are desktop applications that run on either a Mac or Windows machine. But, they do support two different scenarios. iPCU is best if you want to setup a bulk number of iPhones with your LOB before giving them to the user. iTunes is better for deployment of the app or on-going updates when the iPhone is already in the user’s hands.
When deploying the LOB app, you have to get your Enterprise Developer License .mobileprovision file installed on the iPhone before you can install a .app file. You can deploy the .mobileprovision file using desktop management that you may have deployed in your network to offload this task from the user. When the iPhone is connected to the desktop running iTunes, the .mobileprovision file will be deployed. Then the user must add the .app to their app library and select to install it on their iPhone.