Apple @ Work: Apple is building a feature to install non-App Store apps on macOS; here’s what it shows about Apple’s intentions with Apple Business Essentials

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When I heard about the public release of Apple Business Essentials, one of the questions I asked was if anything was new compared to the beta period. One important thing that Apple adds is the ability to install apps, not from the Mac App Store. Apple said this was one of the most in-demand features from the beta period, and they plan to deliver it later this summer.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed a corporate IT network from 2009 to 2021. Through his experience implementing and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-quality Wi-Fi, hundreds of Macs and hundreds of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways whereupon Apple executives implement Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches in IT administration, and ways Apple can improve its products for IT departments.

When it comes to iPad and iPhone administration, app installation is linked to the App Store. Yes, you can install custom apps, but there is no concept for side loading apps on iOS, so it has never come up as a potential feature. As Mac device management has become more common, installing applications that are not available in the Mac App Store is a frequent occurrence for Apple administrators. Let’s be honest, most of your critical applications on macOS are does not in the Mac App Store. Even when there is a version in the Mac App Store, many administrators would prefer to use the direct version from the manufacturer for faster updates and more control. Apps like Zoom, Microsoft Office, Slack, Adobe Creative Cloud, and others are common applications that Apple business users have that require IT to install, update, and manage.

Many MDM vendors now offer non-App Store app management on macOS, but this was noticeably absent in MDM inside Apple Business Essentials. Built on top of FleetSmith, Apple Business Essentials can easily manage up to 500 devices. FleetSmith was known for this feature (though it was removed when Apple bought it), so it was strange that it was missing from ABE during the beta period. Customers asked, and Apple has agreed that it is an important feature. It’s coming to Apple Business Essentials later this summer.

What does it mean for Apple to support non-App Store apps?

Apple is against page loading on iOS and appears to be in ongoing legal battles with various countries regarding it. On the Mac side, non-App Store apps have been the only way to install apps for decades. Customers need this feature as many apps may not work with App Store Sandbox rules.

Apple’s building a first-party way for small businesses to install critical applications is crucial to the main enemy: unmanaged Macs at work. This is the most important thing I’ve gotten from Apple, which is building a first-party non-App Store installation solution – Apple is committed to providing more reasons to manage Macs in the workplace. The more functionality built into Apple Business Essentials, the more small businesses can convince them to build their entire fleet (even if only a few Macs). This intention is good for other MDM vendors like Mosyle, Kandji and Jamf. Like I said, the competitor to Apple is unmanaged Macs in the workplace

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