Apple's new licensing for apps gives it a huge enterprise advantage
One of the biggest iOS 7 advances for enterprise environments is Apple's new volume licensing model. The new model is a massive step forward and arguably is the most significant enterprise advance that Apple has made in iOS 7. It also has the potential to be a huge competitive advantage over Android in business environments.
Purchasing apps for enterprise users has long been a sore point for companies looking to support BYOD users. Apple's iOS App Store and Google Play were both developed as consumer marketplaces. Purchasing or downloading an app requires a user account with either company and ties purchases to that account, operating under the assumption that the person buying/downloading the app will be the user. That model has its roots in other forms of consumer-oriented digital content that both companies also sell like ebooks and music.
The problem with that approach is that it doesn't support a way for a company to purchase apps on behalf of users. Apple attempted to address this issue with its Volume Purchase Programs (VPP) for both businesses and schools by allowing an organization to purchase a series of redemption codes that could be distributed to users. The big problem with the VPP codes has been that they still rely on a user's personal account (known as an Apple ID) and when a user redeems one of the codes, they become the owner of the app.
If employees leave the company, they take the ownership of those apps with them. If their replacements need the same app, the company has to buy another copy that will again be tied to each user and this second investment will be lost if they leave the company. Apple did offer administrators using its Apple Configurator solution a way to assign apps to devices rather than to users, but the approach is rather cumbersome and can only effectively be used with company- or school-owned devices such as those shared among a pool of users.
Merging a consumer-centric store with enterprise licensing needs
The core problem here is that apps are treated as products to be purchased rather than software to be licensed. Apple's new licensing mechanism brings the traditional enterprise licensing paradigm to iOS devices and apps.
Although administrators select and purchase apps through the VPP version of the App Store, apps are no longer distributed using redemption codes. Instead, the VPP store records the apps (and quantities) purchased by an organization. MDM APIs allow mobile management solutions to invite users to enroll their devices into the licensing program. As they do, administrators gain the ability to assign apps to enrolled user devices or to allow users to select apps through an enterprise app store. An administrator can then purchase additional licenses if needed.
When the apps are loaded on employee devices they also become part of the user's personal App Store purchase history, allowing users to install them on other devices that are tied to their Apple ID. Essentially they behave the way App Store purchases have always behaved. When a user leaves the company, the mobile management solution can use those same APIs to revoke the license from that user. This doesn't immediately delete the app, however. Apple will send a notification to the user saying the app has been revoked and give them a grace period to decide whether they want to purchase the app on their own.
Much of the heavy lifting in the system is accomplished by Apple and VPP App Store. Although apps are assigned using the Apple IDs of employees, Apple has developed a system in which IT administrators don't actually need to know those Apple IDs. This is most likely to preserve user privacy and security as Apple IDs are the central gateway to just about every Apple service - App Store and iTunes Store purchases, iTunes Home Sharing, iCloud, iOS device activation, iOS 7's Activation Lock, and Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod/Mac.
From an administrator's perspective, the new model works very similar to what's been around for decades - single source software licensing coupled with network-based deployment tools. From a user perspective, it's extremely similar to the consumer App Store system.
A potential goldmine of savings
Cost savings and return on app investment is the single biggest advantage that this new model offers. The potential savings could be massive for a large enterprise.
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