Apple Business Essentials →

Today, Apple has announced a new beta service for small businesses that run on Apple products. Here’s a bit from the press release:

Apple Business Essentials is a complete solution that makes employee onboarding simple, allowing a small business to easily configure, deploy, and manage Apple products from anywhere.

Within Apple Business Essentials, Collections enable IT personnel to configure settings and apps for individual users, groups, or devices. When employees sign in to their corporate or personally owned device with their work credentials, Collections automatically push settings such as VPN configurations and Wi-Fi passwords. In addition, Collections will install the new Apple Business Essentials app on each employee’s home screen, where they can download corporate apps assigned to them, such as Cisco Webex or Microsoft Word.

At the heart of this is a new Apple Business app, which serves as the central hub for managing users, applications and more.1 Settings including software update policies, FileVault and Activation Lock can be managed from a central location. Enrolled employees are given a work-specific iCloud account.

Included is a onsite repair program for iPhones, available in specific cities.

The program will roll out in the spring of next year, and can be tried now for free for US companies with fewer than 500 employees. Once it launches, prices will start at $2.99 per device a month for users with a single device, or $6.99 per user a month for users with more than one device.

The spring launch will bring with it AppleCare+ for Business Essentials, as described by Bradley Chambers:

A new AppleCare+ for Business Essentials option adds on 24/7 access to phone support for both IT teams and end users, and up to two device repairs per plan each year. End users can initiate repairs directly from the new Apple Business Essentials app, and an Apple-trained technician will come onsite in as little as four hours to repair devices. AppleCare+ for Business Essentials is not available during the free beta period.

By jumping into this world, Apple is taking on the likes of JAMF and local consulting shops (like the one I worked at from 2008-2010), but in their own way. As far as I can tell, the most unique thing here is the bundled iCloud account and storage support, but even then, many third-party tools can handle iCloud configurations just fine on their own.

I’m sure this will meet the needs for some businesses, but like many Apple applications and services, if you want or need more, there are already plenty of great options out there.