Cydia apps may explain why users jailbreak IT policies

I’m pretty sure the “B” in BYOD refers to “bring,” as in “bring your own device,” but the rising popularity of Cydia apps makes you wonder if more people are bent on breaking their own devices instead.

Forget about the IT managers and CIOs who prohibit employees from using consumer technologies in the enterprise, or even the search engines and social media services that shove changes down users’ throats. The real IT overlord is Apple Inc., whose attempts to dictate terms of what can be used on an iPhone or iPad is creating a huge market opportunity for jailbreaking applications such as those available through Cydia’s app store.

It’s possible, of course, that jailbreaking a smart phone will become even more common as IT departments try to help users access certain programs and functions as part of their daily work. In the meantime, technology professionals must be prepared for the consequences of Cydia apps as more Apple customers deploy them. In some cases it will mean a “bricked” phone that leaves them unable to function effectively at the office. In other cases it will mean the warranty becomes null and void. Either way, IT departments could become the reluctant support arms for Cydia users. Familiarity with jailbreaking applications will therefore likely become a key part of corporate help desks in the near future, if they aren’t already.

There are lots of sites that offer their own list of the best Cydia apps or must-have jailbreak apps, and beyond giving IT managers a heads up about what’s in store they could also be a good teaching tool about what kind of usability issues are important to everyday employees. Consider Zephyr, for example, which allows users to close applications or bring up the multitasking switcher by simply swiping up from the bottom of the display. Do people really hate the “home” button that much? Maybe. Similarly, SiriToggles allows iPhone 4S users the ability to do things like turn Wi-Fi off or on via voice recognition, a novelty that soon may become a standard expectation for any smartphone user.

In corporate circles there tends to be a theory that users only jailbreak their phone for time-wasting activities, but as they begin to see opportunities for more enterprise-level work, that may not always be the case. The fact is, if people go to the trouble of visiting the Cydia Apps store, downloading its software and jailbreaking their iPhones, there must be something about that use-case that resonates.

Much like enterprise IT departments that have been forced to rethink some of their usage policies, Apple and other companies must consider carefully whether the limitations they put on devices and platforms like iOS 5 are worth it. When people break out of jail in the real world, they are usually on the run from authorities. Jailbreaking your phone, in some cases, means you’re more productive, more creative and ultimately more satisfied. And as Cydia’s success proves, never has being an IT fugitive felt so liberating.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
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