Virtually everyone who’s ever used an Apple product has an Apple ID. This user account for all things Apple is most commonly used with the iTunes Store and the iOS and Mac App Stores. It’s used to both authorize purchases and to allow you to access content or run apps after they’re downloaded. Apple’s philosophy is that every person should have their own Apple ID and that each of us should use our individual Apple ID (and only that Apple ID) on each of our devices – iPads, iPhones, iPods, Macs, even PC’s running iTunes or other Apple software.
That’s a great concept, but it creates a big challenge when iOS devices are used in business or school environments. When someone configures an iOS device for an employee or student with a selection of apps and other content (like iBooks 2 textbooks), they need to use an Apple ID. But once that device is deployed, the end user may need or want to purchase additional apps or other materials.
This is often a stumbling block for business-owned devices. And it’s something that Apple has finally begun to address with Apple Configurator.
Apple Configurator - Is it right for your school or business?
One of the first things most IT folks will think about Apple Configurator is that it’s pretty limited compared to some of the mobile device management suites on the market (including Apple’s Profile Manager in Lion Server). MDM suites are designed to make device management as easy, automatic, and wireless as possible. Most include robust monitoring and reporting features – virtually all can use Apple’s push notification system to update a managed device at any time.
Configurator, on the other hand, requires connecting each iOS device to a Mac using a USB cable to perform any administrative tasks like configuring device settings, assigning a device to a user, installing apps, or updating iOS. That means that Configurator isn’t appropriate for a lot of businesses or workplace situations. Yet, for some organizations, Configurator is a more ideal tool than most MDM suites because of its hands-on approach.
So, what kinds of environments is Apple Configurator suited to?
Apple wants to be sure employees know when their iOS devices are managed at work
One short sentence in the help documents for the new Apple Configurator tool shows that the company is aware that many workers are bringing their personal devices into the office. More noteworthy is the fact that it shows that Apple is thinking about some of the potential privacy issues that can arise in situations like BYOD programs where a personal iPhone or iPad is managed by a company’s IT department.
The sentence in question is in the section on supervised or managed devices. It reads as follows:
Important: When a device is initially supervised during the Prepare process, it’s wiped of all content and settings. This prevents a person’s personal device from being supervised without their knowledge.
Apple Configurator is a new free tool that let’s you manage iOS devices in business or education settings. The app can be used simply as an initial deployment tool or as an ongoing management solution. It’s particularly well suited to environments where iPads and other iOS devices will be shared among multiple users since it can be used in “lending library” fashion with users checking out devices because Configurator backs up user data on check-in and applies to a new device on check-out.
This guide covers each part of Configurator with step-by-step instructions.
Apple included a list of new features in the release notes for iOS 5.1, which became available on Wednesday alongside the announcement of the new iPad. It seems that Apple included some unannounced features as well – some of which enable more iOS device security and management when paired with a mobile device management (MDM) suite or with Apple’s new Apple Configurator tool for iOS.
The new management features seem to be primarily related to Siri on the iPhone 4S and they include the ability to prevent any use of Siri while an iPhone 4S is locked as well as the ability to filter out profanity. Additionally, as noted by the Intrepidus Group, a security consulting firm, is the ability to block location services on any iOS device.
A common complaint that I heard earlier this week at the CITE conference in San Francisco was that Apple wasn’t a “real” enterprise vendor. IT professionals have whined and moaned about the fact that Apple doesn’t behave like most enterprise vendors for years (as a long time Mac and Apple IT professional myself, I’ve probably muttered under my breath about Apple’s approach to the enterprise many more times than most of the CITE attendees). What’s changed, however, is that CIOs and other IT leaders can no longer simply say “no” anytime Apple or an Apple product is mentioned.
This week, Apple even reiterated the point by dropping Apple Configurator, a completely new free tool for managing iOS devices in business. It’s a tool that offers new workflows when it comes to how businesses work with iPads (and to a lesser extent iPhones) and Apple released without telling its mobile management partners or its enterprise customers.
To all those IT folks bitching and complaining that Apple doesn’t publish 18-month roadmaps and doesn’t reach out to every enterprise months in advance of a product upgrade or cancelation, I have to say this: deal with it.
Along with announcing the new iPad and Apple TV (and related iOS and app updates), Apple released a new tool for managing iOS devices in business and education. The new Apple Configurator app is a free download in the Mac App Store for Macs running Lion. Although it takes the sting out of managing iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches for smaller organizations, it won’t replace more full feature mobile management solutions for mid-size or larger companies.
Stop, configurate and listen, Apple's back with a brand new application
Apple is getting really serious about using the iPad in large organizations. School and workplace admin people are going to be very pleased with Apple Configurator, a new Mac app which lets you — surprise! — configure multiple iPads at once, all from the comfort of your own computer screen.