What? Apple products need management?! Cupertino intros device management for SMBs

Cloudy tools to enrol users, disperse apps, backed with on-site service

Apple has introduced a device management service for small businesses.

Dubbed Business Essentials and currently being beta-tested in the US only, the service lets users enrol Macs, iPhones and iPads, deploy apps to the devices, and assign them Apple cloud services such as iCloud storage, and even pre-configure VPN settings and Wi-Fi passwords.

A "managed Apple ID" – a logon issued by a business – appears to be key to the service. Using it when logging on sees Apple devices download the apps a business wants users to have installed and provides access to the iCloud storage for which the business has paid. Backup of data on managed devices to that iCloud is automatic.

The service covers devices owned by a business or by employees, with differing profiles for personal and work use ensuring data doesn’t mingle.

A Business Essentials app lets users access a corporate app store, from which business-approved apps can be downloaded.

Devices can be remotely wiped, or a lost device can be bricked save for a message that advises anyone who finds it of a number to call to return the machine to its owner.

The product is driven with a cloudy portal that lets admins enroll users, define groups and policies that apply to them, and subscribe to more Apple services for each user. But Apple's promotional material suggests an emphasis on user self-service whenever possible.

Third-party products already exist to manage Apple devices – the likes of Jamf, VMware and Citrix already offer them. The Register has asked Apple if its service is based on any outside vendor's tech, or is all grown in Cupertino's orchard. We'll update this story if the company replies.

If this is all Apple's work, that doesn't mean it's entirely hostile to the company's partners. One feature of Business Essentials is the ability to book authorised repairers to fix devices – that could be a third party, or an Apple store.

On-site service is another feature – Apple is promising to parachute staff into offices within four hours to triage ailing iThings.

Business Essentials is currently a free beta. Apple stated the service will go live, for real, in northern hemisphere Spring 2022. We've asked if and when the service will reach nations other than the USA, and – you know the drill – we'll update the story if Apple offers useful info. ®

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