Making The Grade: is the Apple K-12 device management strategy wrong?

Create the rank is a weekly series by Bradley Chambers about Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an educational environment since 2009. Through his experience in the implementation and management of 100s Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will point to ways in which Apple's products work extensively, from trenches of IT management and ways Apple improves its products for students.

When it comes to enterprise device management, every platform company (Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.) has its own management style. Google (with Chromebooks) has built a complete end-to-end solution for the management of its devices. When I say from start to finish, I mean that when you buy Chromebooks, you are also buying the management tool that is being sold by Google.


In the K-12 environment, most schools look at Google or iPad. As I said, when you purchase Chromebooks, you also purchase the Google management system. When you purchase the iPad, you must purchase a third-party system to manage the iPad. Yes, Apple has a solution called Profile Manager in macOS server, but it is not a comparison of apples with apples with something like Jamf. In my opinion, it is more a proof of concept that people can use when testing. macOS Server also receives functions every year.

In a world where Apple makes the chips in its own smartphones, is not it strange that they have completely outsourced the management of their devices in the company? Was this a mistake, or was it a moment of clarity for Apple, where it admitted that other companies could do things better?

The Apple model

One of the things that Apple can often do in the company is that they do not serve IT departments like Microsoft and Google so well. For years I have heard jokes that when IT departments have to have their first Mac repaired that they are appalled, they have to bring it to the mall versus someone who picks it up. Although Apple offers business recovery software, external resellers often fill in the gaps (as often with Dell, HP, etc.). Apple provides technical support for its products (especially for problems related to the Volume Purchase Program, Apple Configurator, etc.).

One of the things I realized about looking at mobile device management systems (MDM) is that each has its own taste or how it presents information. They all use the APIs that are built by Apple, so they play in a certain way on a level playing field. On the other hand, when Apple releases new APIs, they depend on said MDM providers to update the compatibility (and to support new APIs). Around the run up to macOS Mojave there has been a lot of unrest in the macOS admin community about some of the changes and what role MDMs can play in helping.

Apple's room app, although very well done, was initially slow to be deployed in schools due to the complicated start-up process with MDM. With 10.3 teachers could finally use it without needing to use IT (making their own e-mails, etc.).

Version 2 of the app brings with it a number of new functions, including the possibility to make es in the app and invite students in the neighborhood. That means that it no longer needs a Mobile Device Management configuration to configure es, making it easier for smaller organizations without IT help to use the app.

Not only was IT involved in the roll-out of the app, but your MDM also had to support it. When Apple released its Schoolwork app earlier this year, they once again followed the strategy of relying on third-party integration.

So with Apple you buy hardware from Apple, you buy your management from another company, you get student e-mails from another company, you possibly use Apple's room tools (as the apps you want to use), and Imagine your managed Apple in IDs that are yet another set of sign-ups that everyone should remember.

Google & # 39; s model

The emergence of Chromebooks in K-12 is well documented. Everyone thinks it is just as good as the price. Although the price is a consideration, I would like to say that it is just as much about end-to-end integration.

When you purchase Chromebooks, you purchase the Google management system. You set up your student email accounts in Google & # 39; s G-Suite. Teachers can set up their rooms in Google space. Students then log in on apps with their Google account data. From the first hardware login, to initial configuration, to device management, to e-mail accounts, to document management – that's it All Google.

Is Apple & # 39; s device management strategy wrong?

With Apple you have a lot of choice on how to configure and manage your devices, but Google has solved the scalability problem. Not only are Chromebooks cheaper in most situations, but they are also easier to use and manage. Yes, you have to be Everything in on Google as a school, but if so, there are many advantages. The strange thing about Apple's K-12 strategy is that it completely contradicts their approach elsewhere.

A few parts of Tim Cook's teachings go against the Apple model:

We believe that we must own and control the primary technologies behind the products we manufacture and only participate in markets where we can make an important contribution.

Is Apple & # 39; s device management strategy in K-12 wrong? Device management is a crucial part of the iPad in K-12 and in enterprises, and they have actually outsourced it. Every new K-12 strategy that they have debuted in the past few years depends on other suppliers to integrate. Apple has a healthy ecosystem around the iPad (and Mac) in schools and businesses, but I think they have made the wrong decision in the long run. It goes against why people like Apple products.

Imagine that Apple had not offered iCloud, and they told the users that they should get a Hotmail or Gmail account? In my opinion, this has been their K-12 strategy in recent years. Yes, it is a more open ecosystem, but it makes their products more difficult (and more expensive) to implement and manage.

People love Apple products at home because it is an end-to-end solution. They have their Macs, Apple TV & # 39; s, iPads, iPhones, iTunes Store, iCloud, etc. Schools want the same. They want scalability and easy management. At the moment, Google's model is easier for IT departments to manage and implement.

Every time Apple releases new announcements for K-12, external suppliers must provide support and IT can set up something new because the iPad can not be integrated into existing SIS or identity management systems. When Google publishes something new, it works with your existing G-Suite and hardware management. Which sounds more attractive to you?

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