What if Apple launched its own EMM platform?

"What if Apple launched its own EMM platform?"

“What if Apple launched its own EMM platform?”

This question comes up every now and then—most recently it was last week on Twitter around another article on iOS MDM. The idea is extra interesting right now because of Apple’s partnership with IBM.

For today I’m just going to look at this question from the Apple-only perspective—i.e. What if Apple created an EMM platform entirely on its own, without partners? I’ll follow up next week with another article looking at what could happen in partnership with IBM.

Apple’s current role in EMM

Obviously Apple’s main role in enterprise mobility management is providing popular devices, operating system that runs them, and extensive management APIs. But Apple’s cloud services are deeply ingrained in EMM, too:

  • There’s the Device Enrollment Program, the Volume Purchase Program, Apple IDs, and the B2B app program.
  • There’s the Apple App Store itself.
  • On a more fundamental level, MDM is dependant on the Apple Push Notification Service for remote management.

There’s also Apple’s range of management products:

  • The Apple Configurator
  • The iPhone Configuration Utility. (This appears to have been depreciated, as it hasn’t been updated for a while)
  • And Profile Manager, a role in OS X Server.

So depending on your point of view, Apple already is an EMM vendor! (Or at least an MDM vendor.) But what if this was rolled up into something that more closely resembles the other major EMM vendors?

Apple as an EMM vendor?

One of the first questions is how Apple could turn its current locally-installed software products into a service offering? That would require something like an iCloud version of OS X Server Profile Manager, or an iCloud version of Apple configurator.

And how about more advanced types of mobile app management or content management? Customers could use best of breed enterprise file sync and share products, or independent app management vendors such as Mocana, Apperian, or Bluebox.

The big issue would be supporting non-Apple devices. Apple software for Windows is generally limited (and viewed as not being very good.) And except for occasional jabs in keynotes and commercials, when you’re in Apple’s world, Android doesn’t even exist. (This is too bad. Personally I’d love to have iTunes or iMessage for Android. And kudos to Google for making lots of awesome iOS apps. But I digress...)

We can safely assume that any Apple EMM product would only support Apple devices. (Could you imagine Apple building a management agent for Android? Or Mail for Android?) This would make it a non-starter for most EMM use cases. The bright spot would be homogeneous environments with organization-issued devices—or organizations that are already able to take advantage of Profile Manager or Apple Configurator.

Another major question is whether an Apple EMM service would have any special hooks or integrations into devices that other EMM vendors don’t have. This is an attractive idea, because vertical integration could mean tighter management.

However this has never happened before. Apple has done a lot over the years to build up devices’ MDM capabilities, and recently they’ve put a lot of effort into services like the Volume Purchase Program and the Device Enrollment Program. But so far they’ve always made these improvements open to all EMM vendors. No MDM features have ever been exclusive to a single partner.

There are only a few examples of management functions that aren’t available to partners; these include things that the Apple Configurator can do, like back up iOS devices and check images in and out for multiple users. The Device Enrollment Program took some Apple Configurator-specific tasks (such enrolling Supervised devices) and opened them up to other EMM vendors. Perhaps this will continue so that Apple Configurator is no longer required for other tasks? (Or iOS could evolve to solve this, too. Multi user account iOS, anyone?)

Conclusion and Part 2

The bottom line is that mainstream EMM vendors don’t have to worry about all their customers suddenly ditching them for a service from Apple. Instead, Apple will most certainly continue to enable them to do more as time goes by.

New EMM tools from Apple would certainly be slick, especially for organizations that have specific use cases that allow them to do everything the “Apple way,” but this is just a niche in the overall EMM industry.

Where all this gets interesting is when IBM comes in the picture. I’ll cover that next week in part 2.

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To me the big thing which tells me this is a "no" is that Apple has no reason to do this. What's in it for them? Will they sell licenses? Probably not. If they make it free, will they sell more iOS devices? Probably not.


It's the same reason that Apple doesn't enter the corporate market in any kind of major way. They don't have to. They just make products people love and the users bring them into the companies.


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