The Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP) was a free service to help organizations simplify the purchase and managed distribution of Apple VPP apps. It has since been replaced by Apple Business Manager (ABM) and Apple School Manager (ASM), which incorporate its functionality in the Apps and Books Store. We’ll explain what the Apple VPP program was and how to use ABM to the same effect.
In the past, an employee using a company-owned Apple device had to purchase apps through the App Store manually from the iOS device itself. This often meant that staff had to pay for the apps out of pocket and receive reimbursement, requiring extra time and effort from both administrators and device users. It also permanently associated the license with the employee’s Apple ID, making the employee rather than the company the owner of the license.
The Volume Purchase Program simplified this process by allowing businesses to purchase VPP app licenses en masse for all users from a single company account. These licenses were then owned by the company and not the associated user.
VPP also provided multiple payment options. Businesses could purchase licenses at the time of the order with a credit card. Otherwise, they could pay for a specific number of VPP credits to redeem later.
How to use Apple Business Manager to purchase licenses
While VPP has transitioned to a component of ABM, the same purchasing process carried over. You can buy apps, books, and other content in bulk using your MDM solution with Apple Business Manager’s Apps and Books Store. Payment options still include credit card or VPP credits. From there, you’re free to assign content to users, update user apps, revoke app access, and reassign apps as needed.
License assignment & managing Apple IDs
Prior to VPP, users had to enter their Apple ID credentials in order to install an app, at which point that user was given ownership of the license. So businesses frequently created a single Apple ID and distributed the credentials to their users. But this solution had its own complications. For example, any user with the company’s credentials could log in to the Apple ID account and make undesirable changes. Additionally, if you reset the password, you needed to notify all users. The tactic also violated Apple’s terms and conditions since using a single Apple ID allowed companies to share one purchased app license between its employees.
VPP, and subsequently ABM, made it easy for a company to own app licenses so it could assign, revoke, and reassign them to users or devices at any time. This eliminated the need for a shared Apple ID account. Today, Macadmins have three options for assigning app licenses: device-based assignment, use-based assignment, and redemption codes.
With device-based assignment, app licenses are assigned to a device by serial number rather than by Managed Apple ID. One license is allocated for each device on which the iOS app is installed. With this method, apps remain on devices regardless of whether an Apple ID is in use. On supervised iOS devices, this method allows silent installations. Businesses looking for a zero-touch deployment process find this particularly beneficial.
When you deploy purchases with user-based assignment, device users are prompted to enter an Apple ID if one is not already present on the device. They are then invited to join the company’s ABM program. While this requires more user interaction than device-based licensing, it is helpful in situations where a single user utilizes multiple devices. The app license is usable on all devices associated with the Apple ID. As a result, only one license is allocated from the total number available.
App licenses can be distributed to Apple IDs using redemption codes. Users are prompted to enter a code in order to redeem the purchase and complete the app installation. After entering the redemption code, ownership of the app license permanently transfers to that user ID.
These codes are delivered in a spreadsheet format and can be distributed to users through various methods:
Assigning them via SimpleMDM
Sending a URL by email
Assigning to devices through Apple Configurator
Providing codes to users manually
When redemption codes are used with SimpleMDM, SimpleMDM automatically redeems the codes for users when they install apps.
Custom apps for business
The Apple B2B VPP program allowed app developers to distribute their apps to specific VPP accounts of their clients through the B2B App Store instead of using the public App Store. In ABM, App Store Connect provides the same functionality.
This is particularly useful for third-party app developers because it allows them to control who has access to download their apps. For example, if an app developer is contracted to build an app intended for internal use within their customer’s business, the developer can publish it so only that customer can access it. Since these apps are not visible to the public, Apple’s approval process for publishing B2B apps is more lenient than it is for the public App Store.
App Store Connect apps can be offered for free or at a price.
SimpleMDM, integrated with your ABM account, makes it easy to distribute apps to managed devices. When apps are deployed via SimpleMDM, licensing is automatic and app installations can be immediate. A significant advantage of utilizing ABM with MDM is the ability to silently install and update apps on devices remotely without requiring any interaction from the user.
SimpleMDM administrators have the option to select the method of license assignment when deploying apps. App licenses can also be revoked and reassigned remotely through the interface.
In the days of VPP, an Apple VPP Token connected a business’s VPP account and MDM solution to manage licenses and facilitate content distribution. The equivalent in ABM is known as a legacy library token. This token must be renewed yearly to continue to distribute licenses.
ABM and its powerful purchasing and distribution features are currently available in over 60 countries. Apple also regularly expands the availability of Apple Business Manager to new countries.
To get started, set up an ABM account or access your existing account. Link it to your MDM solution, and then purchase and distribute content as needed.
SimpleMDM is a mobile device management solution that helps IT teams securely update, monitor, and license Apple devices in a matter of minutes — all while staying on top of Apple updates automatically.