iPhone with Macbook in the back with purple glow showing device management

Apple Business Essentials – Can Apple Make Inroads Into the Device Management Space?

Apple jumped into device management with the launch of their latest offering Apple Business Essentials, a first-party solution integrated into Apple Business Manager. The company introduces Business Essentials as ‘a complete subscription that seamlessly brings together device management, 24/7 support and cloud storage.’

Business Essentials aims to provide the tools and customer support that help in remotely managing and configuring the devices based on the roles in which they are employed. But the move is garnering mixed responses within the community, with stakeholders involved expressing optimism and legitimate concern.

Apple and its vision

The ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, and hybrid work adoption in a flexible working environment have all resulted in increased relevance of device management solutions for small and medium scale businesses (SMBs).

SMBs normally don’t have the numbers nor the means to sustain a dedicated IT team or even a full-time IT person. This is where mobile device management (MDM) that simplifies and secures the proceedings comes into play. Apple aims to tap into this space by targeting small and medium scale businesses looking forward to managing Apple devices for their employees. The package has three different pricing plans—as a single device, multi device, or multi device offering more storage space, and was expected ever since Apple’s acquisition of Fleetsmith device management platform over a year ago.

Business Essentials—A hasty move into the device management space?

Apple needs to systematically address various concerns regarding Business Essentials before full service gets rolled out in spring 2022. Since the Business Essentials is made available for up to 500 employees, there is a lack of clarity on how it can be used to manage an employee who comes beyond that numerical figure—say employee 501 or employee 502.

The scalability and the fact that companies require more capabilities than what Business Essentials might offer is another cause for deep skepticism. When there is a requirement for scaling, the transfer of data from iCloud to OneDrive or Workspace is critical, but again, it’s unknown whether Apple even offers the possibility.

iCloud and feasibility

iCloud is perceived to be inferior to the cloud services of Google and Microsoft and presents specific scalability issues. Google Drive often works best with third-party suites, enables logging into several accounts, and makes swapping between them easy. Organizations that leverage multiple operating systems like Windows PCs and Chrome books may not work seamlessly. Even with the help of Apple Business Manager, it could prove to be an additional burden for IT teams.

Established device managed platforms and their significance

Popular device management solutions can possibly be used to bridge the gap between what Apple offers and the customers’ requirements. MDM solutions available in the market cater to varied needs and have already been market-tested through years and have emerged triumphant. Most MDM solutions offer scalability and ease of managing devices across multiple platforms. Business Essentials presently doesn’t offer such diverse solutions, and it may take some time before Apple could address the various challenges in the environment. For instance, Microsoft Intune, despite being a Windows device vendor, supports multiple platforms, offering more flexibility in real-world scenarios.

Traditionally, small businesses have often found it challenging to manage employees’ Apple devices and keep them up-to-date. With Business Essentials, Apple hopes to target SMBs employing Mac devices and looking for a robust MDM solution. On the other hand, MDM solutions are hoping that more significant numbers of small and medium businesses will adopt Apple and then adopt suitable device management solutions specific to their needs.

The future

With the pandemic and the move towards hybrid work, employees prefer more Macs in their workplace. According to IDC, global mac sales grew by 10 percent in the third quarter of 2021, which is more sales than at any point in history. The staggering sales growth is expected to reflect in the sales of device management tools required to manage a host of devices within the enterprise.

Detractors have often criticized Apple for losing its revolutionary and innovative edge. And even with the introduction of Business Essentials, Apple doesn’t look like having adequately addressed such concerns. While Apple has maintained that MDM solutions and Business Essentials can coexist, for the companies already using a compatible MDM solution, the question to ponder is whether it makes much sense to switch to Business Essentials?