Apple’s latest enterprise support moves are overdue, but welcome

March 2, 2014

For years, the IT world has been educated and philosophically trained to manage devices the way Microsoft believes is the right way. Based on those philosophies, Microsoft provided tools to manage their devices and the lack of such options for Apple products has been a source of frustration for IT. 

Now Apple is finally getting serious about offering enterprise support in its products.

With Macs, iPads, and  iPhones now cemented as a standard in many enterprise environments Apple has been listening to those customers and has made long-awaited moves to address their needs.

Specifically, Apple has recently made modifications and additions to the processes for managing both iOS and Macs in the enterprise. 

The biggest one is the zero-touch device enrollment. IT managers no longer have to physically handle a device, stage it, and prep it to deploy it. They can now do it all remotely to get a new device enrolled. This makes for a quick and easy activation process. 

These devices can even be set up as they are in transit. Since using this system requires the devices be directly purchased from Apple, it won't work on devices brought in and purchased by the employee. But these devices can be assigned to the user as they are in transit, so that as soon as the employee gets the device they open it and activate. 

(Tablets 2.0, how tablets can be used for productivity as well as consumption, is the theme of this year's Tablet Strategy conference in New York on May 6. Registration info is here)

Apple has also made some important changes to its Volume Purchase Program that lets enterprises make large scale purchases of apps, or books in the case of education.

With these additions to the program comes assigning apps to Apple IDs rather than sending "coupons" to the devices. This will make for a more direct way to know who the users are in an organization. Once established you can send apps to the users, and manage the apps for those users, rather than the device with no real knowledge of who is the user/owner of that device. 

Another important addition the VPP is the ability to silently install applications on a device. Prior to this a user had to accept the application being installed on their device and now it can be silently pushed to the end user. 

(For iPad news, trends, apps and reviews, sign up for the free TabTimes for iPad newsletter)

An important shift to mobility

What is interesting to me is a philosophical approach that Apple has brought to their products with these additions as it relates to OS X.

If you dig into the process by which Macs are now managed it is very similar to the process in which you manage an iOS device. What Apple has done is create a level of consistency, but brought features and services to the Mac that are similar in concept to how you manage a mobile device.

This is an important philosophical shift, and it is one that underscores the changing times where an emphasis on mobility is present. 

Many of the changes Apple made were very important in taking steps forward to make their devices some of the easiest devices to manage in an enterprise setting.

This will hopefully give IT managers confidence that Apple products are worth the investment. These recent modifications show a newfound and welcome commitment by Apple to support big organizations.

What’s next?

One obvious next step for Apple is to bring these programs to more than just the US.  

Many, like the digital enrollment program, is only available in the US. While the US is a large and central market for Apple in the enterprise, there are many institutions and educational institutions around the world who would love to take advantage of them as well.

(For news, trends and insights about the the tablet market, sign up for the free Tablet Business/Productivity Update newsletter)

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