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Apple launches SMB device management

Designed for companies of up to 500 employees, Business Essentials offers tools to download apps and push updates to iPhones, iPads and Macs. It provides up to 2 TB iCloud storage.

Apple has introduced mobile device management software for small and medium-size businesses with employees using iPhones, iPads or Macs.

Business Essentials, which Apple announced last week, is designed for businesses of up to 500 people. It lets SMBs push apps and updates to devices, onboard new devices and track device locations. The service comes with iCloud+ storage and Apple support.

"The vast majority of business devices in the market are in SMBs, and a very large percentage of those devices are unmanaged," said Phil Hochmuth, an analyst at IDC.

The news comes a year after Apple acquired MDM vendor Fleetsmith. Apple's service will compete with companies like Jamf, Addigy and Hexnode.

Hochmuth said Business Essentials could help Apple expand its growing services market. For the three months ending in September, Apple's service revenues were $18.3 billion, up from $14.5 billion the year before.

Tina Kapoor, economic development manager for the city of Cupertino, Calif., regularly interacts with SMBs and said she sees a market for tools like device management even in Apple's hometown.

"There's a huge need [and] gap in the small business community when it comes to applying and managing technology to the best of its capabilities," Kapoor said.

Apple Business Essentials running on a Macbook, iPhone and iPad
Business Essentials runs as an app on iPhones, iPads and Macs. The service pushes software updates to devices and provides up to 2 TB iCloud storage.

Business Essentials comes with an app that companies install on employee devices. The app can push settings like VPN configurations and Wi-fi passwords to the hardware.

The service also provides Mac security through full-disk encryption, stolen or lost device protection, and encryption of business data.

"Small business offers a great opportunity for Apple to get its feet wet with both [mobile device management] and support," wrote Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, in a blog post. "It's a much friendlier environment where IT is often run in a fashion closer to consumer than enterprise."

The Apple Business Essentials costs $6.99 per user per month and supports three devices per user. The service comes with 200 GB of iCloud storage. For $12.99 per user per month, companies get 2 TB iCloud storage.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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