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Distributing content with Apple’s Apps and Books

Andrei Geralt

Aug 27, 2021

8 min read

Corporations love Apple devices. With the recent release of the M1 chip, Mac devices have grown more popular with the revenue from mac alone shooting up to $28 million. Even before all this, Apple devices were considered a great choice as company-owned devices. With device supervision mode enabled, the organization has a great deal of control over the device, making them ideal for work purposes.

Distribute your content via ABM with Hexnode

So how does the device deployment process go? Apple configurator 2, Apple Business Manager, Unified Endpoint Management; There are various ways to deploy an Apple device, but device management does not end there. After the devices are deployed, the users need the applications and content to perform their tasks.

Installing applications? Please, anybody can do that. True, but what about the bulk purchase and distribution of apps and books? Content distribution via ABM. That is what we are going to talk about.

Routing the right content to your employees

Some time ago, the terms DEP (Device Enrollment Program) and VPP (Volume Purchase Program) held a lot of significance when it came to Apple device management. These programs have now combined to become the new focus point known as Apple Business and School Manager.

Managed distribution Redemption/ Redeemable codes
User distribution Device distribution
Free apps distribution
Paid and custom apps distribution
Free books distribution
Paid books distribution
MDM for distribution
Organization retains app ownership
Apple ID not mandatory for app access
Content available through family sharing
In-app purchases for end users
Content available through purchase list across various devices

The distribution of applications and books comes under the Apps and Books tab in the ABM portal. There are two methods to deploy content via Apps and Books. The long way and the short way, namely managed distribution and redeemable/ redemption codes. Curious to know which is the easier way? Make a guess and read on to see if you are right.

Managed distribution

With managed distribution, you can push apps or content to a device without the need for an Apple ID. This method allows anyone using the device to access that application. Managed distribution is excellent in a company-owned device but not so great if the device belongs to an employee. In such cases, we can assign the application to a particular user.

The cool part of managed distribution is that the organization retains ownership of the app license. This means it’s possible to revoke access to an app and then reassign it to someone else, making it the more preferred method. Of course, the prerequisite for using this method is to ensure that the device is enrolled in a UEM solution or the Apple Configurator.

How do you do it – Method 1

So, how do you push apps via the managed distribution method? It’s pretty straightforward.

Step 1: Find the application

Once you log in to your ABM account, go to the Apps and Books tab. Use the search bar to find the application you are looking for.

Step 2: Make the purchase

After finding the application, select the location where it will be initially assigned and change the payment method, if necessary. Messed up the location? No problem. You can always transfer the location later.

Step 3: Buy to your heart's fill

Select the total number of licenses you wish to purchase. The purchase processing speed depends on the range of licenses you’ve bought.

After this process, it’s all on you and your UEM vendor to assign the applications to the rights users or devices.

User and device distribution

The final stage of managed distribution is..well, distribution. This process is done with the UEM solution. In the case of device distribution, the organization is first linked to the UEM portal. These applications can then be assigned to devices without an Apple ID.

Apps and Books tab in ABM
Apps and Books tab in ABM
 

User distribution, however, requires more explanation, hence the new paragraph. There are two cases here: a user with a managed Apple account and a user with a personal Apple account.

Managed account

  1. Invite the user via UEM, and the user will be created on the UEM portal.
  2. Assign the applications to the user.

Personal account

  1. Invite the user via UEM, and a managed account will be created automatically. The managed ID will be an extension of their email, so the organization will not know the user’s personal ID. The user is then be added to the UEM portal.
  2. Assign the applications to the user.

Recommendation

Apple suggests assigning the content to the devices to simplify the deployment process. Since device distribution does not require an Apple ID, it provides for faster app distribution. Another suggestion is to deploy only the necessary applications to the device. The rest of the applications can be downloaded by the user over time. If the device is supervised, then the applications are installed silently on the device.

Precautions

A few things to keep in mind before going for device distribution

  • If the user disenrolls the device from the UEM, then the application is also removed.
  • The applications will not get reinstalled when performing a Finder or iCloud restore from backup.
  • In-app purchases are incompatible for device-assigned applications.

How do you do it – Custom App

So, imagine you had an app tailored perfectly for your organization. Naturally, it won’t be listed in the Apps and Books section because, well.. it is your custom app. It is possible to deploy your custom app to your employees, but you have to first add it to your AMB portal.

Step 1: Providing your organization ID to the developer

Before the app can be made available, the app developer needs to add you to the approved list. This process is commonly done with the organization ID or the managed Apple ID of the ABM account.

Step 2: Wait

This IS an approval process, so it obviously involves waiting.

Step 3: Purchase the app

Once approved, the app appears on your custom apps tab. From there, you can purchase licenses just like how it is for Appstore apps.

Redeemable codes

There is a prerequisite for managed distribution: a UEM solution. When thou do not have a UEM, thou shalt buy one…..or you can use redeemable codes. Redeemable code is not recommended since the organization loses ownership of the app after the codes are used. If the employee gets fired or transferred, it won’t be possible to revoke access to the app and then grant it to someone else. Nevertheless, if you wish to proceed with the app distribution without a UEM or Apple configurator, this is the only way to go.

How do you do it – Method 2

Attaining the codes is pretty simple. You can do that in a couple of steps.

Step 1: Find the application

Search for your app or book under the Apps and Books tab in your ABM portal.

Step 2: Select the App and change the license type

Change the license type from managed to redemption codes.

Step 3: Make the buy

Choose the number of licenses to purchase. After the buying process, a list of redeemable codes and direct links should be available for download.

The user can get the application by choosing the ‘Redeem Gift card or code’ and entering the code or clicking the direct link.

Migrating from redemption codes to managed distribution

Redemption codes can be considered a thing of the past. So, Apple has made it possible to migrate from redemption codes to managed distribution. The migration is only possible if your codes are unredeemed or redeemed through Apple configurator 1. There are a few requirements you need to check out before applying for the migration process. To initiate the migration process, you just need to fill the business and education support form. Pretty anti-climactic, right?

The final note

So, about the whole long method and short method. It was a lie; both are kind of short. Redemption codes were once used pretty extensively in organizations not using a UEM solution. Most modern UEM solutions like Hexnode offer integration with ABM. This allows the deployment of applications via ABM using a UEM.

With Apple configurator 2 serving as an alternative way to distribute apps via ABM, redemption codes are almost out of the picture. Since the employees within an organization may come and go, revoking access and reassigning them is certainly better than purchasing a new license. So, if you are still using redemption codes, maybe it’s time to give managed distribution a go!

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Andrei Geralt

Frolicking on the keys while appreciating the serenity behind the screen.

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