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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reviewing Apple’s WWDC 2022 announcements that will impact IT professionals in education and enterprise environments. There’s a lot to unbox this year that may not have made the headlines in most news stories, so I can’t wait to unbox the little treats and consider what kind of impact each will have for IT professionals who manage Apple devices, but also those who use managed Apple devices for work and school. This week I want to review the news that Apple Configurator on iPhone can now integrate other iPhones and iPads into Apple Business Manager and Apple School Manager.
About Apple@Work: Bradley Chambers managed a corporate IT network from 2009 to 2021. With his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, mobile device management system, Wi- Fi enterprise, hundreds of Macs and hundreds of iPads, Bradley will highlight the ways Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management and ways Apple could improve its products for IT services.
It’s hard to believe that Apple Configurator is now over TWELVE years old. In fact, you can still read the original release story from when 9to5Mac covered the announcement. I still remember where I was when it was announced. I was leaving another school that was looking to migrate to Google Workspace (Google Apps at the time) from their on-premises Exchange mail server, and I was giving them some advice I had done a few years earlier.
When I got back to the office, I started seeing release announcements on various Apple websites. Compared to today’s cloud tools, Apple Configurator isn’t something most businesses can use as their only iOS and macOS management tool. Yet at the time, it was a fundamental breakthrough for many organizations just getting started with iOS. This ultimately made a technology like the Volume Purchase Program scalable for organizations that buy apps in bulk. Apple Configurator’s role in 2022 is very different, but let’s look at what life was like before its release.
Before Apple Configurator
Before Apple Configurator, the application deployment process was suspicious the best. You would buy the number of copies of an app you need (20 was/is the minimum to get a discount) and receive an excel spreadsheet with app codes. You’d take the former, use it in iTunes, and then “keep” the test for compliance. If you were deploying apps to personal devices, you would simply email people the app code to use it.
With Apple Configurator, you would use the first code in iTunes to retrieve the App file, add it to Apple Configurator, then import the spreadsheet to unlock additional licenses. You would then have the option to sync it via USB connection with devices en masse. I tinkered around quite a bit to find USB hubs capable of powering multiple iPads at once – the most I could get was 8-10 at a time. When you want to remove an app, you have to plug it back in, uncheck it in Apple Configurator, and then re-sync it. Compared to today’s environment, this process seems archaic, but back then it was light years away from what we had.
MDM + Apple configurator in 2022
The role of Apple Configurator in 2022 is very different. In fact, you don’t even have have to use it. Apple’s zero-touch deployment model means it can distribute boxed devices and employees/students can unbox, connect to Wi-Fi, enroll in MDM, and install the correct apps and profiles. It’s possible that IT could run an Apple deployment for many years without never touch a device. With Erase All Content and Settings, it is possible for an IT department to erase devices and disclaim them from MDM for resale/trade-in when the lease is also over. In the age of remote work, it’s truly amazing what all IT pros can do without touching a device.
However, Apple Configurator is still useful if you want to use it. In my experience, I’ve found that using it on freshly unboxed devices to manually install a Wi-Fi profile can speed up deployment times if IT doesn’t want to create a Wi-Fi network without a password. I often used the macOS version of Apple Configurator to install a single Wi-Fi profile on all devices as I unboxed them, then let others help me through the MDM onboarding process , etc. It’s not mandatory, but it’s a nice option.
Apple Configurator for iPhone
Last December, Apple released the initial version of Apple Configurator for iPhone after announcing it at WWDC 2021. The main reason for using the iPhone version of the app was to integrate devices not purchased through the school’s Apple account in Apple Business/School Manager. In what situation would this be beneficial? My initial pitch for the app was whether a Mac was given to a school or a (non-profit) company to be used in day-to-day operations. I have encountered this situation many times and have never refused free iPads, but it has made managing them difficult.
With the Apple Configurator update in 2022, schools and businesses will now have the ability to integrate iOS and iPadOS devices into their Apple Accounts that we purchased directly from Apple. Why is it beneficial? For the same reasons I mentioned above with the given devices, there is also an emerging use case: supply chain issues. Finding devices in stock has become a challenge. Search for devices en masse has become an even greater challenge. I read countless tweets throughout the spring and summer from schools with delayed deliveries. The summer period is when schools typically ramp up their device rollout in the fall, so an August or September delivery isn’t ideal. I’ve spoken to several schools that have replenished Mac rollouts by purchasing devices from Best Buy, Amazon, B&H Photo, and other retailers. With Apple Configurator for iPhone, these devices can optionally end up in their Apple Business/School Manager account, so they function as if they came directly from Apple.
Summary of Apple Configurator announcements from WWDC
The added iPad and iPhone integration for Apple Configurator for iPhone won’t help a school today, but it will help in the future. If supply chain issues persist in 2023, this will give schools another option for where to buy their devices. If they receive devices that support iOS 16, schools and businesses can simply say Thanks, integrate them into Apple Business/School Manager and add them to their mobile device management system, like all other devices in the fleet. It might seem like a minor upgrade, but it’s a significant improvement in the right situation.
Apple @ Work is brought to you by Mosyle, the only unified Apple platform. Mosyle is the only solution that fully integrates 5 different apps into one single Apple platform, allowing businesses and schools to easily and automatically deploy, manage and protect all of their Apple devices. More than 32,000 organizations use Mosyle solutions to automate the deployment, management and security of millions of Apple devices every day.
Apply for a FREE account today and find out how you can put your Apple fleet on autopilot at a price that’s hard to believe.
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