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Apple VPP updates give IT more control over apps

Apple will update the Volume Purchasing Program in iOS 9 in a way that should alleviate headaches for IT and users.

Admins will be allowed to untie bulk app deployments from Apple IDs when iOS 9 is released thanks to a change in the Apple VPP.

The Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP) allows organizations to buy iOS apps in bulk for distribution to user devices. As of now, administrators can only assign apps to specific user Apple IDs through the iTunes store. With iOS 9, available this fall, admins can assign apps to specific devices with no link to Apple IDs.

While the keynote for this week's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference was light on specifics for the enterprise, a conference session highlighted this VPP change and several others on how devices and applications can be managed in iOS 9.

Under the new device assignment plan, IT maintains complete control over installing, updating and managing apps assigned to devices through the VPP, said Todd Fernandez, Apple's device management tools engineering manager, during the session.

To get an app from the VPP now, it's a multi-step process.
Michael OhCTO and founder, TSP LLC

End users can't make any of those changes themselves. Even if there is an Apple ID on a device, the apps won't show up in the Apple ID purchase history, since the app won't be associated with it.

Untethering apps from Apple IDs during the VPP process should alleviate some headaches for IT and users alike, said Michael Oh, CTO and founder of TSP LLC, an Apple reseller and IT managed service provider in Boston.

IT gets more control over the apps and getting to the apps should be easier for users, he said.

"To get an app from the VPP now, it's a multi-step process," Oh said. "[With Apple VPP], you can deploy the device and not have to type in your Apple ID and password for the apps."

However, there's a catch: With device assignment of apps, it will be necessary for organizations to purchase one app for every device on which it is used. In the past, one app could be assigned to an Apple ID and it would appear on all devices associated with that ID.

When organizations provide multiple Apple devices to users this could be an added expense, though it may not be a major hindrance for most organizations, Oh said.

App developers with applications on the iTunes Store can opt in to allow apps to be distributed as device assignments through the Apple VPP starting next month, Fernandez said.

Apple also added multinational app distribution to the VPP, so admins in one country can purchase an app through the VPP and distribute it to users in other countries as long as that app is available in that country's App Store. Today, apps have to be bought and distributed on a country-by-country basis.

Apple updates DEP, debuts Configurator 2

Apple's Device Enrollment Program (DEP), where organizations configure institutionally owned iOS devices before distributing them to users, will also receive some updates in iOS 9. Admins will be able to keep users from using devices enrolled in the DEP until all settings, restrictions and accounts are actually in place.

That change should strengthen security as users won't be able to do anything on a DEP-managed device before admins are done configuring it, Oh said.

Apple also plans to roll out a new version of Apple Configurator, a free device management program in Mac OS X, with iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. Apple Configurator 2 is designed for more enhanced integration with mobile device management (MDM) systems, the creation of custom workflows and improved means of sharing data and moving devices between different Configurators in the same system.

Before 2014, the only way to enroll devices in the DEP was to connect the iOS device to a Mac and use Apple Configurator. With the update, admins can enroll devices over the air.

Configurator isn't used much outside of the education market, Oh said, and it remains to be seen if MDM providers will take advantage of more integration with Configurator 2 to expand its use.

"As MDM systems get more and more capable, Configurator becomes a little less relevant outside of fringe cases, but we'll see if that changes," he said.

Additionally, Apple said it will support Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync 16 in iOS 9 and include improved performance reliability, support for attachments and the ability to create meeting invitations from iOS.

Developers can access iOS 9 now with a public beta coming in July.

Jake O'Donnell is the news writer for SearchConsumerization and SearchVirtualDesktop. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JakeODonnell_TT.

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