This has been a big year for Apple in the enterprise

Between WWDC 2021 and the upcoming WWDC 2022, Apple has made significant changes that affect the enterprise community. It is worthwhile to take a look at what has changed and what it could mean.

Declarative management

One of the biggest changes is last year’s conference dates. Announcement Management is the most significant change in Apple’s MDM (Mobile Device Management) architecture since its inception in 2010.

The advantage of Declared Management is that it manages to take a lot of policy management to the devices themselves instead of configuring the profile on each device for which it has to check in with an MDM service and report its status. Declarative management allows devices to track their consent against a set of detailed declarations. Devices need to be connected only when they are out of consent or when new announcements are received. In this way, devices can handle their condition without the need for constant or repeated connections.

This is a big deal, even though many configuration options are highly compatible with MDM capabilities. This reduces network congestion and on-device response time. As Apple and other MDM vendors move to purely cloud-based solutions, these improvements help deliver significant savings in bandwidth and user satisfaction.

It is clear that declarative management is the future and pre-existing MDM framework for managing all Apple devices in an organization.

It is easy to imagine that the framework would eventually become obsolete and unsupported. This has consequences because older OSs (iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS) that do not run the appropriate versions that support the announcement eventually need to be replaced. Given Apple’s efforts to support older devices, including existing software, this may not be an immediate concern. But IT leaders should be noticed.

Apple business requirements

Last November, Apple launched Apple Business Essentials, a cloud-based MDM service for small to medium-sized enterprises.

This puts Apple in an attractive position. For 12 years, the company has allowed third-party vendors to provide enterprise MDM solutions instead of offering their own. Now Apple is competing with those MDM vendors.

This allows Apple to leverage iCloud and managed Apple devices for users to create a collaborative platform in the mold of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.

Apple Business Manager / Apple School Manager

These solutions are part of managing Apple devices and parcels. Like Apple Business Essentials, Apple has moved much of the provisioning process to the cloud with a tool that integrates with third-party identification and authentication platforms (say Azure AD) and / or managed Apple IDs. Although these platforms already existed, the cloud-based emphasis is significant.

Unlisted app

Another amazing change that Apple has made over the last few months is support for unlisted apps. Unlisted apps are downloaded using the iOS or macOS App Store, but are not visible while browsing or searching the App Store. The only way to access them is through a link provided by the IT department.

This may seem like a strange change, but it does make it possible for companies to install apps without having to rely on MDM to provide them. It’s compatible with Apple Business Essentials and for companies that don’t want to take MDM solutions entirely. It also works well for companies that rely on outside consultants / contractors and have to install in-house enterprise apps but do not want to register their personal devices.

Death of MacOS server

I wrote about the demise of the MacOS server and it was in the chopping block for years before Apple decided to hand it over this spring. In the end, there were only a few services that continued to work on the MacOS server.

This step adapts to the strategies described above – managing the device and delivering it to the cloud instead of using an on-premises solution. As Apple moved forward with Business Essentials and Business Manager as the new key to device management, it was a completely predictable transformation.

Where things go next

With so much going on on the enterprise front in the last 12 months, I don’t expect to see any major enterprise changes across Apple’s various platforms. I hope that most of WWDC’s enterprise tracks will focus on clarifying how things will work out in this MDM cloud reality.

There may be some refinements, such as announcement management, user-based enrollment, and managed Apple IDs, but I don’t expect any instance-change announcements, sessions, or labs.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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