Apple has now publicly announced some of the new enterprise and education targeted features of iOS 7, and while all of the newly announced features are exciting, the most important one is the addition of App Store license management. This will solve many headaches that organizations have encountered when having to deploy applications to users, especially paid ones.
Today, with iOS 6, if an organization wants to deploy a paid application to its users, there are a few options, but all of them have serious drawbacks:
- Supervise devices, installing applications via Apple Configurator or an MDM solution. This will get the applications on the devices, but users will be unable to update the applications as their Apple IDs do not own them.
- Buy applications through VPP, and distribute the codes to users. Users can then register with their Apple IDs, and update them, but the organization loses control, with no real way to reclaim licenses from users. Licenses become a sunk cost, per user.
- Buy users iTunes gift cards to redeem for applications, or reimburse them for purchased applications in countries where VPP is not offered.
None of these options are particularly good, and many organizations are still struggling with figuring out whether or not there is a tax burden for the second two options.
With iOS 7, organizations will be able to purchase licenses for applications, as well as books, and assign them to users in a revokable, transferable manner. Users will see assigned applications in their purchased list, and organizations can even choose to have applications automatically installed if the device is enrolled in an MDM. If a user leaves the organization, or the license needs to be reassigned to another user, it can be done at any time.
For example, a business may want to offer its users with iPads, whether or not they are institutionally owned, access to their workstations over RDP or VNC. There are many applications in the App Store for this, but most of the good ones are paid, such as iTeleport, currently $24.99. Instead of spending the money to buy a copy of iTeleport for each user that may use it, the organization can choose to buy a set number of licenses and assign them based on need. If a user temporarily needs it, that can be done, and if a organization sees the the application is assigned to a user but never used, it can be reclaimed. Users will be able to update the application, and the organization will save money by not having to buy more licenses than needed.
While this feature is nice for business environments, where it will truly shine is in education environments, especially those with one-to-one iPad deployments. Currently, most of these education institutions end up having to budget for many applications and books per-student, or require students to purchase these on their own. Both of these options end up costing more than they should, especially for applications or books that are only used periodically.
Educational institutions will now be able to create virtual libraries of applications, and allow them to be checked out by users. A great application for this will be to purchase classroom-sized sets of licenses for educational applications, like a Solar Walk 3D solar system model. Instead of having to deal with distributing an application such as this to students, or requiring them to purchase it, a teacher could reserve the application for a period of time, and have it automatically installed on student devices via MDM. Then, when the class is done with that unit, the licenses can be reclaimed and reused for another class.
While it is unfortunate that it has taken until now for these features to be delivered, the App Store license management features of iOS 7 are sure to make iPads much more compelling purchases in organizations, especially as app purchases will now be much more cost effective, and able to be truly managed.