Apple made waves in the enterprise space with the acquisition of small device management vendor Fleetsmith.
Why Apple acquired Fleetsmith
Apple’s on-going enterprise push includes larger enterprises and major partners like IBM, SAP, Jamf, Accenture, Oracle and others. These large-scale firms can help key clients with broad Apple hardware deployments.
The other strand of the company’s reach into business computing is at the SME end of things, where over half of businesses now support Macs. In that space, Apple’s clients have become used to providing their own tech support. But as soon as this goes beyond a handful of seats, the task of managing all that Apple kit becomes more time-consuming and onerous.
It’s this piece of the jigsaw that I think the Fleetsmith acquisition fits.
If I’m right, Apple will be able to extend its existing Device Management offering with an integrated solution designed to make it much easier for smaller enterprises to better manage devices and onboard new employees.
[Also read: WWDC: 12+ announcements for the Apple enterprise]
Remote work is the new office
The need for a solution such as this was made transparently clear at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when enterprises of every size were forced to rush to deploy the tools required to support remote working.
“In the enterprise market, businesses everywhere have been making the transition to working remotely,” Apple CFO Luca Maestri said during the most recent Apple fiscal call. “We’ve created content to assist our customers in this transition, including an on-demand video learning series focused on topics like remote deployments of iPads and Macs and security. We have also realigned our own retail business and enterprise teams to provide timely and relevant support to customers as they navigate new work environments.”
It seems these efforts exposed some weaknesses in Apple’s current offering.
Maestri noted that Apple’s New York teams worked with Peloton to deploy an entire fleet of Macs overnight so their employees could work remotely during the pandemic.
It might have been better if Peloton had been able to use tools Apple provided in order to make such a deployment itself. That’s what the Fleetsmith purchase should help resolve, as it should provide Apple Business Manager with a set of tools for effective remote provisioning of devices and employee on-boarding on an application level.
Raising the bar
Having said that, it’s unlikely Apple will want to take over this entire MDM space on the back of this one offering, as the needs of enterprise professionals are so varied. Third-party specialized system and device management firms are vital to serve this wide field. So, for example, the tens of thousands of iOS devices purchased by the Bank of America early in the pandemic will probably require more sophisticated support.
All that changes is that Apple raises the bar and makes it easier for enterprises to get new equipment and employees up and running fast, which should act to increase the number of Apple devices deployed.
It should also underpin future employee choice schemes.
What happens next?
The move is broadly in line with Apple’s continued expansion in the enterprise space. That it now plans to provide a more extensive selection of fleet management tools may turn out to be the catalyst for further market share gains.
The effect? Put it this way: enterprise markets are becoming increasingly Apple-friendly, and everything Apple does that makes it easier to deploy its devices in that space should translate into wider adoption. The size of Apple’s enterprise fleet should grow.
I spoke with Fleetsmith co-founder Zack Blum in 2018, when he observed:
“Apple has played a leading role in enterprise trends such as BYOD, the future of work, and the consumerization of IT.”
Now it seems, Apple is going hard to take leadership of the new world of remote working.
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