What to expect from Apple’s new device management solution

Jan. 21, 2022
Apple Business Essentials is aimed at businesses with less than 500 employees

Last month, Apple unveiled the beta version of its newest venture, Apple Business Essentials. Apple’s foray into the MDM market was expected ever since they acquired Fleetsmith last year. Launching officially in spring 2022, Business Essentials is a mobile device management solution aimed squarely at SMBs with less than 500 employees. 

Business Essentials is the latest product of Apple’s growing interest in enterprise tech. Apple’s recent shift to selling subscriptions has given birth to a subscription service that offers device management, support and storage. This article will highlight the ripples caused by the inception of the tech giant into the world of device management. 

What does Apple bring to the table?     

Apple Business Essentials provides all the basic bells and whistles accompanying any MDM solutions like user grouping, password policies, app management, and OS updates. The security front allows users to configure Apple’s Filevault encryption on Mac or activation lock to secure any Apple device. In addition, Business Essentials comes with iCloud for any storage needs and service and support will be handled through AppleCare+, Apple’s business-level support arm. 

How does it affect the SMB industry?     

Business Essentials was launched, focusing on SMBs. A business at its nascent stages would probably lack a dedicated IT team, but even a company with only 50 employees will have at least 100 devices. SMBs with an exclusive Apple ecosystem would be able to take advantage of such a solution. However, To properly secure a business network, the IT team must be able to manage each and every device in its workspace including Internet of Things (IoT) capable devices. Businesses can no longer afford to neglect the smart TVs, wearables, etc., accessing their network. Although Apple Business Essentials provides proper management of Macs, iPhones, and iPads, it does not support Apple TVs or Apple watches. 

Apple Business Essentials is an innovative solution as long as the business runs only on the Apple ecosystem. Yes, Apple is fond of building and promoting an Apple-only ecosystem, and their device synergy is pretty incredible. However, can SMBs afford to limit their devices to only Apple products? As the great resignation gains traction, businesses are reinventing their practices and workplace to tempt employee retention. BYOD is a significant factor in this mass exodus. In addition, employees are adamant about using the devices and platforms they are comfortable with. Therefore, it becomes increasingly more challenging to maintain an Apple-only ecosystem in such a scenario. 

According to Apple’s vice president of enterprise and education marketing, Susan Prescott, Apple’s entry into the device management niche is fueled by the desire to help small businesses that do not have the resources or capital to set up a dedicated IT department. A less expensive MDM would be of great help to these SMBs. However, is that truly the case? Apple’s pricing plan starts at $2.99, which could have been considered a relatively less expensive plan except that this plan only supports one device per user. For example, any knowledge worker would require one iPhone and one Mac. So, when you consider two or more devices per employee, the plan jumps to $6.99, making it even more expensive than other multi-platform UEMs with far more capabilities. 

As mentioned above, Apple Business Essentials is aimed at businesses with less than 500 employees. This limits its usability and restricts it to small and mid-sized organizations. However, it also raises a few questions. Is Apple’s move to stay in the small to mid-sized market a marketing strategy, or is scalability an issue for Business Essentials? Assuming that it can be scaled up to 500 employees, what happens when the employee count goes up? Is that limit just theoretical, or is it a hard rule? What kind of migration options does Apple offer if it is a hard rule? If the data is backed up to iCloud, how do you directly migrate it to OneDrive or Dropbox? Speaking of the cloud, if iCloud comes as default storage with Business Essentials, will it come bundled with Apple’s iWork apps? As good as most of Apple’s products are, iWork is not in the same universe as Office 365 or G Suite. It’s challenging to identify the value proposition that Business Essentials will deliver without answers to at least some, if not all, of these issues. 

Apple isn’t the first hardware vendor to dabble in device management 

Apple Business Essentials is the latest to venture into this niche. However, tech giants like Microsoft, Blackberry, and Google are established players in the device management market. Microsoft, in particular, has been in the game for a long time, starting with Intune and now the latest Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Google is a relatively new kid in class but has shown great potential. Yet still, unlike Apple, Google, Blackberry and even Microsoft offer multi-platform support. 

Bottom line 

Business Essentials is still in its beta phase. As a result, it is still too early to deduct how it would shape up to be. That being said, this is not Apple’s first rodeo with selling services — the past decade has shown how Apple has been focusing on its subscription services more than ever. Nevertheless, endpoint management is a new frontier for the trillion-dollar company, and we are excited and curious to see where Apple will take Business Essentials. 

About the authorApu Pavithran is the founder and CEO of Hexnode. Recognized in the IT management community as a consultant, speaker, and thought leader, Apu has been a strong advocate for IT governance and Information security management. He’s passionate about entrepreneurship and spends significant time working with startups and empowering young entrepreneurs