Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Apple Strengthens Enterprise Mobility Positioning through New Bulk Purchase Program and MDM APIs

Recently Apple released iOS 7. It’s the most revamped version of the existing mobile operating system to date. This 2013 iteration of the popular platform sheds off the skeumorphism and embraces the shiny aesthetics of the simple and flat user interface. Along with this release, Apple made its new volume licensing model official, making its platform even more relevant for enterprises, especially big bulk app customers.

Companies who support BYOD (BringYour Own Device) users have long faced the problem of maintaining their investment in bulk-purchased apps. Technically, mobile app distribution systems, like the AppStore and Google Play, operate in a user-centric purchase model. This means that once these platforms store a user’s account, apps and other downloaded content are tied to that user’s account regardless of who actually pays for the app. So even if a company is paying for apps, those apps are actually owned by the user.

For businesses, problems arise when employees for whom the company has purchased apps leave the organization. The users take the app (the company’s financial investment) with them when they leave. Thus, new employees require another set of apps and the company incurs additional costs to keep the same number employees supplied with applications.

With iOS 7 and new MDM (Mobile Device Management) APIs, Apple has found a way to treat apps as licensed software, not merely individual app purchases. Apple’s new VPP (Volume Purchase Program) adopts the conventional software licensing model and applies it to iOS devices and apps. Apple’s VPP records the app data being purchased by a company or organization, not the individual user’s Apple ID. In fact, Apple has managed to find a way to keep the user’s sensitive Apple ID hidden from the organization’s administrators. With the aid of MDM APIs, users enroll their devices into the company’s licensing program and companies can then assign specific apps to specific users. When the apps are distributed to the users, they become part of the user’s purchase history. This lets users install the app on their different devices as long as they use the same Apple ID. If the user leaves the company, the company can use their MDM solution to revoke their license. Once revoked, Apple will send notification to the user enabling them to decide if they want to retain the app by purchasing it on their own. The company can then assign the license to another user without having to buy another license.

While this may not appear significant when viewed on the scale of a few licenses here and there, for large organizations that buy thousands of applications or face frequent or large employee turnovers, the fact that a company can now reassign app licenses can be a huge cost saver and very appealing to enterprises.

By hooking into Apple’s MDM API organizations using third-party MDM solutions also gain greater distribution efficiency and further granular control. Depending on the MDM vendor, this typically includes the ability to track app installations, monitor app usage, associate costs to specific departments or purchase orders, define quotas per device. 

Idan Hershkovich is Online Marketing Manager at Magic. He’s an early mobile adopter and an Apple fanatic. 
Magic provides powerful and versatile enterprise-grade, application, enterprise mobility and data integration solutions.