Apple will discontinue Fleetsmith Mobile Device Management (MDM) service in October and warn companies using the service to find another MDM provider.
Apple and Fleetsmith, a short history
Fleetsmith was acquired by Apple in June 2020. At the time, it was understood that the company wanted to improve what it offered small business users. “Apple’s weakest point in business has always been small businesses that just want to get started,” Jamf CEO Dean Hager told me after the Apple Business Essentials was revealed.
When I spoke with Fleetsmith co-founder Zach Bloom in 2018, he said:
“Apple’s greatest achievement and contribution to enterprise technology has been bringing mobile into the enterprise. Apple has raised the bar in delivering well-designed product experiences, as well as hardware and operating system security.”
Apple Business Essentials services may be offered to many small and medium business (SMB) users, which take advantage of some of the technologies Apple has taken from Fleetsmith. However, for more complex deployments, there is a rich industry for high-end MDM systems.
Fortunately, after more than a decade of steady growth in Apple’s enterprise deployments, Fleetsmith customers looking for an alternative MDM vendor are at a loss.
Founded in 2002 and used by SAP, IBM and possibly even Apple, Jamf was early to identify a startup Apple in business opportunities and remain the market leader through a range of services, including robust Zero Trust solutions.
But Jamf isn’t the only game in town. Reflecting Apple’s growth in this segment, the stable of Apple-focused MDM providers is expanding very rapidly.
This is great, since many businesses have completely unique needs, so the plethora of choices means that even the most unique business has a chance to select the right vendor for the business they run. Companies including Jumpcloud, Addigy, Hexnode, Kandji, Citrix, MobileIron, and several others are vying with Jamf to support the foundation.
What drives Apple into the enterprise?
This growing network of players has emerged in response to the consumption of information technology, which continues to transform business technology. I saw a new research study 451 that claims that about 25% of small and medium businesses plan to invest in their digital transformation strategy going forward, after significant investments in hardware over the past two years.
MDM is a critical component of any such strategy.
Of course, when it comes to the proliferation of Apple’s toolkit in enterprise IT, you can justifiably say that this began to accelerate after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which quickly spawned the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend. With the widespread use of the Apple smartphone in enterprises, the spread of the iPad and Mac soon followed.
This desire for a simple consumer experience in enterprise IT has also fueled the emergence of employee selection schemes, as discussed here, here, and here.
One recent survey (commissioned by Jamf) claimed that Apple users have a better experience with their chosen platform, reporting improvements in productivity (87%), self-sufficiency (87%), and creativity (86%).
ways of seeing
The way business leaders view Apple’s toolkit has changed dramatically in the past decade or so. The days when tech leaders could mock the company’s performances were truly over when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the time confronted a room full of journalists using Macs at a press event.
Today, as business leaders continue to view Apple hardware as a more expensive initial investment, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the cost of ownership over the usable lifecycle more than makes up for it.
In other words, this side of the market has grown and will continue to grow, and with nearly every Fortune 500 company supporting Apple devices, it’s not likely to decline anytime soon.
Farewell Fleetsmith, Welcome to the new world of enterprise IT
Apple knows this of course, and while Fleetsmith’s closure indicates that the company will continue to sponsor the third-party MDM services market, it still means that existing Fleetsmith customers must now prioritize finding an alternative MDM provider.
As explained in Apple’s tech support note, Fleetsmith will discontinue on October 21, after which devices will no longer receive configuration profiles. The service is no longer accepting new clients.
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