Apple will discontinue the Fleetsmith Mobile Device Management (MDM) service in October and is warning businesses using the service to find another MDM provider.
Apple and Fleetsmith, a short history
Apple acquired Fleetsmith in June 2020. At the time, it was understood the company wanted to improve what it offered to small business users. “The weakest spot for Apple in business has always been for the small businesses who just want to get started,” Jamf CEO Dean Hager told me soon after Apple Business Essentials was revealed.
When I spoke with Fleetsmith co-founder Zack Blum in 2018, he said:
“Apple’s biggest accomplishment and contribution to enterprise technology has been bringing mobile to the enterprise. Apple has raised the bar in delivering well-designed product experiences, as well as hardware and OS security.”
Many small and mid-sized business (SMB) users might be served by Apple Business Essentials, which leverages some of the technologies Apple took from Fleetsmith. However, for more complex deployments, there’s a rich industry of sophisticated MDM systems.
Thankfully, following more than a decade of steady growth in Apple deployments in the enterprise, Fleetsmith customers seeking an alternative MDM vendor are increasingly spoiled for choice.
Founded in 2002 and used at SAP, IBM and perhaps even at Apple, Jamf was early to identify the emerging Apple in business opportunity and remains the clear market leader with a range of services, including powerful Zero Trust solutions.
But Jamf isn’t the only game in town. Reflecting Apple’s growth in the sector, the stable of Apple-focused MDM providers is expanding quite rapidly.
That’s great, as many businesses have quite unique needs, so the plethora of choices means even the most unique business has an opportunity to identify a vendor suitable for the business they run. Companies including Jumpcloud, Addigy, Hexnode, Kandji, Citrix, MobileIron and many others are all competing with Jamf to support the enterprise.
What is driving Apple in the enterprise?
This growing network of players has emerged in response to the consumerization of IT, which continues to transform business technology. A new 451 Research study I’ve seen claims that about 25% of SMBs plan to invest in their digital transformation strategy moving forward, following substantial hardware investments across the last two years.
MDM is a critical element to any such strategy.
Of course, when it comes to the proliferation of Apple kit in enterprise IT, you can justifiably argue this first began to accelerate following introduction of the iPhone in 2007, which soon spawned the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend. As the Apple smartphone became more widely used in the enterprise, iPad and Mac deployment soon followed.
This desire for a consumer-simple experience in enterprise IT has also nurtured the emergence of employee-choice schemes, as discussed here, here, and here.
One recent survey (commissioned by Jamf) claimed Apple users had 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 see Apple kit has changed dramatically in the last decade or so. The days when tech leaders could mock the company’s offerings really came to an end when Microsoft’s then-CEO, Steve Ballmer faced a room full of Mac-using journalists at a press event.
Today, while business leaders continue to see Apple hardware as a more expensive initial investment, it has become crystal clear that the cost of ownership over the usable lifecycle more than makes up for that.
In other words, this side of the market has grown and will continue to grow, and with almost every Fortune 500 firm now supporting Apple devices, it’s unlikely to decline any time soon.
Farewell Fleetsmith, hello new world of enterprise IT
Apple knows this, of course, and while the shuttering of Fleetsmith suggests the company will continue to nurture the third-party MDM services market, it still means existing Fleetsmith customers must now prioritize finding an alternative MDM provider.
As explained in this Apple tech support note, Fleetsmith will cease on Oct. 21, after which devices will no longer receive configuration profiles. The service no longer accepts new customers.
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