Mac management startup Fleetsmith is adding in MDM, plus they just got more funding

Mixing MDM and agent-based management is the state of the art for Macs. Now Fleetsmith plans to manage iOS and tvOS, too.

A year and a half ago, I first became acquainted with Fleetsmith, a Mac management startup focused on SMBs that use G Suite. This week they announced a round of funding, full product availability, and key product updates based on MDM. I wanted to get more details about their plans, so talked to CEO Zack Blum and CPO/CSO Jesse Endahl.

The tech

Fleetsmith initially had an agent-based approach to managing Apple macOS (more on that here), but there were several reasons why they added in MDM.

  • First, Apple added kernel extension whitelisting in macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and MDM is the only way to remotely manage it. Security, video editing, virtualization, and other types of software use kernel extensions, so this supporting MDM for this is pretty much essential in a business environment.
  • Second, they wanted to support Mac provisioning using the Apple Device Enrollment Program. “Zero-touch,” “out of box experience,” or “first run” provisioning (pick your preferred term) means that devices automatically enroll in management and get configured as soon as they’re powered on for the first time. This is definitely the wave of the future for all types of devices—see also Android zero touch and Windows AutoPilot.
  • Third, MDM gives them access to a bunch of configurations and commands, including crucial things like remote lock and remote wipe.
  • (They’re not doing Apple Volume Purchase Program integration yet, because on macOS, there’s just not a big demand for apps from the Apple App Store.)

In this release, they’re also highlighting wifi and printer configuration, as well as the ability to provision local macOS user accounts.

Lastly, since they MDM for macOS now, they’re planning to extend it to iOS and tvOS soon.

Strategy and comments

With their G Suite and SMB focus, Fleetsmith is not going to be an enterprise product yet. However, there’s clearly no lack of potential customers that fit their target profile. You may think that it’s just Bay Area startups the choose Google over Office 365 and prefer Macs over Windows PCs, but really, I can think of a lot of organizations that could use something like Fleetsmith.

While they’re not sharing any numbers right now, for their part, Fleetsmith says they have hundreds of customers and are growing rapidly. Their $7.7 million in Series A funding (on top of previous seed funding) is another vote of confidence.

When it comes to MDM for iOS and tvOS, a few particular use cases stand out in their target customers: managing Apple TVs in conference rooms, managing iPads in offices, and basic policies for iPhones.

Mixing MDM and traditional management for macOS is the state of the art embraced by several Mac management products. It’s interesting to see the parallels between this and Windows 10 Modern Management, too.

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