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With iOS 7, Apple's Volume Purchase Program is better for IT and users

Updates to the Apple Volume Purchase Program make it easier for IT to buy and distribute applications for users' iOS 7 devices.

In iOS 7, the Apple Volume Purchase Program goes in new directions that greatly benefit organizations, making apps easier to distribute and licenses easier to control.

With the release of iOS 7, companies can now maintain full ownership of each app's license on a per-user basis -- an important change, particularly if your company supports a bring your own device program. For the first time, you can assign Volume Purchase Program (VPP) apps to individual users, revoke the apps at any time and then assign them to other workers. The iOS 7 VPP is also easier for employees to use.

How Apple's Volume Purchase Program works

The Apple Volume Purchase Program lets organizations purchase apps in bulk for distribution to employees' iOS devices. If your company participates in the program, workers don't have to purchase business apps individually, submit expense reports or go through other procurement processes. The program also saves your organization from managing those processes and issuing reimbursements.

To take advantage of the Apple VPP, your organization must first enroll in the program and set up a volume purchasing account. Once your organization is enrolled, you can search the VPP website for content, select multiple apps, specify the quantity of each app that you need and complete the entire transaction online. But keep in mind that the VPP doesn't offer volume discounts. Your company pays the same prices as those listed on the App Store.

More on the Apple Volume Purchase Program

iOS app distribution: A technical deep dive

iOS 7 features, tools and services

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The Volume Purchase Program does, however, support business-to-business (B2B) apps built by third-party developers, usually in collaboration with your organization. These are not the same B2B apps that you might build internally, but they do address specific business needs, so they are not available to the general public. The developer uses your VPP-associated Apple ID to make the apps available to your company through the VPP website. Pricing for the app depends on the arrangements between your company and the developer.

For each iOS app you purchase through the VPP website, Apple issues a redemption code that allows users in your organization to download the app. The code is tied to the number of copies of the app you purchase. The VPP website provides you with a spreadsheet that shows your purchased apps, the number of copies of each app and a URL that contains the code needed to redeem that app. You can then issue that URL to your employees so they can download and install the app. When users redeem the code and download the app, the VPP website updates the spreadsheet to reflect the number of remaining licenses.

The iOS 7 difference

In previous versions of iOS, administrators could email the redemption URL to users, post the link on an internal portal or upload the spreadsheet to a mobile device management (MDM) system to enable distribution. Once the app was installed on the employee's device, the license for that app went with the device. If the employee who owned the device left the company, the app also left. Not only did this mean having to repurchase the app if additional copies were needed, but there could also have been tax implications associated with such transactions (in terms of gifting software).

But the Apple Volume Purchase Program's app licensing and distribution processes have changed significantly in iOS 7. You can now assign an app to a specific user and retain control of the app's license. If an employee leaves the company or no longer needs the app, IT can revoke it and then assign it to someone else. Plus, Apple has extended the VPP service to include more than just iOS apps. Your organization can now use the service to purchase iBookstore books and applications for Mac computers, as well as iOS apps.

Employees can now use their personal Apple IDs to retrieve the VPP-purchased apps without having to provide that ID to the company. This also saves administrators from having to maintain and distribute a corporate Apple ID. With iOS 7, the apps can be placed in employees' personal purchase history. From there, workers can manually download the apps when they need them.

The MDM protocol has also been updated in iOS 7, providing yet another option for Apple VPP app distribution. An MDM tool that supports the updated protocol and features can assign apps over the air to managed devices. As a result, apps can be installed and configured automatically without any action on the user's part.

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