Apple’s New Business Essentials Program Is More than You May Think
And Apple has been preparing this for a long time
Apple recently announced a new “Business Essentials” product for small businesses. It’s available for free as a beta right now, but final pricing will be from $2.99 to $12.99 monthly per user. That pricing doesn’t include AppleCare support, which they say will be available later.
So what is it? Basically, it’s an MDM (Mobile Device Management). Apple bought Fleetsmith, an MDM company, in 2020 and it seems that Fleetsmith software is the base of this offering.
What’s an MDM?
If you have used Screentime for yourself or a child, that is a limited form of MDM. Screentime inherited some of its features from the Parental Controls feature that Apple introduced in 2009, so Apple is no stranger to this technology. Both allow control of a device, limiting the software used, settings changes, and little more. A full MDM extends those features and provides central management.
Apple and Business
Apple is not unaccustomed to working with businesses, small and large. For quite a few years now, Apple retail stores have had employees dedicated to the SMB market and Apple Corporate has dealt with Enterprise level businesses.
If you have ever bought anything from a retail store, you may have been asked if you own or work for a small business. This wasn’t just something that was checked off and ignored; Apple has been collecting that information in a very large database and the store’s “Business Team” (which might be only one person at smaller stores) contacted those business owners to offer potential discounts and (drumroll, please) MDM software. The software they were selling then was from Jamf, another popular MDM provider.
Now Apple will be selling its own. It’s priced slightly higher than Jamf, but includes iCloud storage for backup and documents.
And then there is AppleCare, which might add another wrinkle to this.
Few details have been offered about AppleCare with Business Essentials, but they did say that it will include an option for on-site service. That’s something that has been available in some locations now, but this may extend the option. Other unanswered questions include whether employees covered by Business Essentials will be able to get technical support even if their hardware is not covered.
Some pundits have expressed an opinion that only businesses who solely use Apple would be interested in this. For example, a recent Verge.com headline proclaimed “Apple’s Business Essentials subscriptions support small businesses that only use Apple.”
That’s not the case at all. Many of the customers I supported for three-plus decades mostly used Windows machines and software but often there were a few Macs mixed in for graphics work. For those companies large enough to have an IT staff of their own and those who relied on consultants like me, the Macs were sometimes an annoyance because IT staff and many consultants lacked Mac expertise. The Apple Business Essentials with Applecare might eliminate that problem.
And one more thing
Apple also very recently announced that you and I will soon be able to buy service parts, manuals, and tools to repair our Apple devices. This is surely offered in hopes of staving off Right to Repair legislation that might be more onerous, but there might be some tie-in to Business Essentials.
Some of the tools are cloud-based software for diagnostics and screen calibration. It’s presently unknown what Apple will charge for any of these parts and tools, but what they charge their independent Authorized Apple Service Providers (AASPs) is not cheap. You’d need that software for many repairs, including things as basic as a cracked screen.
It may not make economic sense for an individual to invest in those tools unless Apple offers a one-time use price for their use. Even without intending to do repairs, being able to run full diagnostic checks at a reasonable price (or perhaps even free?) would make sense for Apple and consumers, but Apple might not see it that way.
A small business might well want to utilize this self-repair, especially if they are not near any Apple stores or AASPs. I wonder if Apple would let them do warranty repairs?
Well, we’ll know more in 2022. I’m sure I’ll be updating this article then!