Explained: What is Apple Business Manager?

Last updated November 7, 2019

Apple Business Manager, sometimes referred to simply as “ABM”, is a program that integrates with SimpleMDM to provide additional control over the enrollment of devices, distribution of app and media licenses, and Apple program administrators. Apple Business Manager became publicly available in the spring of 2018 and is a natural consolidation of the Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP) and Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP) portals. It also includes a few other useful capabilities outlined in this article.

App and Book Licensing

Organizationally Owned. Employee Utilized.

Apple Business Manager allows a business to purchase app licenses directly from Apple. A business then assigns licenses to employees, by associating the license with their Apple ID, or with a device, by associating the license with the device serial number. This allows an employee or device to install an app without first purchasing it through the Apple App Store. It also permits a business to recover a license from an employee or device in the future and use it elsewhere.

The program has grown to include books as well. Companies purchase licenses for digital books and push them to employee devices for distribution.

Locations

Apple Business Manager includes a feature called “Locations”. Businesses with multiple locations or units create Locations and divide their app and book licenses across these locations. By partitioning licenses into logical groups, an organization is able to ensure that a specified number of licenses are made available (or conversely, restricted) to a particular business unit or location.

Each Location has its own VPP token, which SimpleMDM uses to gain access to the associated licenses. Organizations may link just one Location, or any number of Locations with a SimpleMDM account depending upon their needs.

Store Credit

A business may have a specific internal procurement process, requiring a quote, purchase order, and invoice in order to make a purchase. This process quickly becomes cumbersome when needing to buy a relatively small number of app or book licenses. Apple’s Store Credit feature provides an alternative by allowing a business to buy credits in advance, later to be redeemed for app and book licenses. Store Credit is purchased using a typical purchase order (PO) process and then is applied to an account.

Learn more about this aspect of Apple Business Manager, sometimes referred to as the Apple Volume Purchase Program or Apple VPP, here: What is the Apple Volume Purchase Program (Apple VPP)?

Automated Enrollment (formerly Apple DEP)

Configured Before Unboxing

Automated Enrollment allows a business to configure the initial start-up behavior of newly purchased devices and devices that have been wiped. In conjunction with SimpleMDM, a device can be configured to skip setup screens during Setup Assistant, automatically install software, and meet company security guidelines. Automated Enrollment enables a true zero-touch device setup workflow, allowing an organization to drop-ship new hardware to employees or repurpose existing hardware without the need for IT to set it up first.

Register Your Own Orders

Previously with Apple DEP, administrators needed to rely on Apple or third-party hardware vendors to register new device purchases. This registration makes the new device serial numbers available for assignment to an MDM.

With Automated Enrollment, administrators add these orders through the interface themselves. The interface provides two options: either an Apple customer number or an Apple reseller number is associated with an ABM account.

Assignment By Device Type

Previously, administrators chose a default MDM Server to assign all newly-added devices. Now, administrators assign a default MDM server for each device type, currently distinguishing between Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Mac devices.

Learn more about Automated Enrollment, here: Explained: The Apple Device Enrollment Program (Apple DEP)

Managed Apple IDs

A Managed Apple ID (sometimes referred to as a “MAID”) is an Apple ID that is owned by an organization instead of an individual. Managed Apple IDs are currently used in two ways:

  1. Administrators are assigned Managed Apple IDs in order to sign into Apple Business Manager, and
  2. Employees use Managed Apple IDs when enrolling their device to an MDM using User Enrollment (read: What is Apple’s “User Enrollment?). The Managed Apple ID is used to authenticate the user and also to provide app and book licenses.

Within Apple Business Manager, administrators register domain names (yourbusiness.com, for example). Apple IDs with these domains are then generated within the interface.

For companies using Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Apple Business Manager supports federated Managed Apple IDs. If a user is created in Azure AD, an accompanying Managed Apple ID is also created in Apple Business Manager.

Unified Apple VPP and Apple DEP Portals

Notable Improvements

Apple Business Manager has been available since the spring of 2018. Previously, separate websites existed for the Apple VPP and Apple DEP portals. Apple Business Manager consolidates these two programs under one single sign-in portal and a logical, unified user interface.

Navigating through purchased apps and books is more straightforward than it was in the old Apple VPP Portal. A separate section for custom apps, also referred to as VPP B2B apps, exists for easier identification.

Unlike the old Apple VPP and Apple DEP portals, Apple Business Manager permits granting access to multiple administrators for an organization. Predefined roles exist with varying levels of permissions, with user classes such as “Staff”, “Device Manager”, “Content Manager”, and “People Manager”. Organizations that previously shared Apple ID credentials to access the VPP and DEP portals no longer need to.

Migrating to Apple Business Manager

Apple has made the migration process from the Apple VPP and Apple DEP portals to Apple Business Manager relatively painless. After signing in with an existing Apple DEP-assigned Apple ID, you are prompted to agree to the terms of service and register a company domain. The ability to easily import existing VPP accounts is also available. Assuming access to the necessary Apple ID credentials, this process typically takes less than 5 minutes.

Questions?

We’re here to help. Leave a comment below or contact support directly.

Interested in taking Apple Business Manager for a spin? Start a trial with SimpleMDM and receive a fully functional account within minutes.

Comments (6)

Hello,
Can new Apple user-ids be also requested through ABM? Especially the users which can be enrolled for the Apple Developer Program.
Regards,
Abhishek.

New *Managed* Apple IDs may be created under ABM, however, our understanding is that, at least currently, these are different than the Apple IDs that can be used to sign into the Apple Developer Program. We suggest getting in touch with Apple to determine whether Managed Apple IDs can be used with the Apple Developer Program.

You mention the Apple VPP B2B program. I understand that this is like a private app store for a company to share apps with other companies (an app developer, for instance, might distribute a custom app to their client using VPP B2B). There is also the Apple Enterprise Developer Program that lets a developer distribute an app within an organization.

Are companies allowed to distribute their in-house apps to *themselves* through VPP B2B or is this against Apple ToS? I am asking for iOS apps.

Hi Michael- Good question. Apple is now encouraging companies to use the VPP B2B app distribution option for internal app distribution. New Enterprise Developer accounts, which supports Enterprise app distribution, are restricted to companies with 100 employees or more. Unless you have a compelling reason to not use VPP B2B distribution, it is what we recommend using going forward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See Why Apple Admins Prefer SimpleMDM

Start My FREE 30-Day Trial Now

See Why Apple Admins Prefer SimpleMDM No strings. No Spam.

Start My 30-Day Free Trial Now