Why Apple’s Open MDM APIs Matter Now More Than Ever

Written by Greg Keller on June 26, 2020

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“Our shared values of putting the customer at the center of everything we do without sacrificing privacy and security, means we can truly meet our mission, delivering Fleetsmith to businesses and institutions of all sizes, around the world. … We look forward to continuing to deliver Fleetsmith to existing and new customers.”

The above quote is from Fleetsmith’s leadership team announcing Apple’s acquisition of their company. This is the exact right vision. 

Since the acquisition was announced, and Apple unexpectedly disabled the Fleetsmith third party app catalog, there has been a flurry of debate over what will happen to Fleetsmith – and subsequently what the Mac admins using the Fleetsmith product need to do to maintain security and privacy for their organizations. More worrisome is the idea that Apple might significantly alter, or on the extreme end, close its open MDM API platform.

As a vendor that relies on that protocol to ensure that our customers can maintain security and manage fleets of all OSs from a single platform, we encourage Apple to keep its API and protocol open and easily consumable and maintainable for its ecosystem. 

There are currently more than 60 vendors in the MDM space. Between us, we support millions of organizations around the world. These customers have varied and often niche needs (which is why there are so many flavors of MDM offerings). Apple’s open API has allowed all these vendors to innovate and deliver products that support multiple requirements and use cases that exist across every industry, size, and geography. In short, Apple’s open MDM APIs have enabled their customers to succeed with Apple products. If Apple limits or drastically changes the open API while narrowing availability for third party vendors managing Apple devices, many of these customers will be left without tools for their specific needs.

Taking a lesson from history, there was a time when Microsoft products ran only on Windows machines. The move to open Windows applications, resources, and tools allowed admins and other vendors to flourish. Opening up PowerShell to Linux and macOS has now created a wide variety of tools, scripts, and communities regardless of their operating system. Continuing to expand protocols, APIs, and integrations in an open forum allows innovation, collaboration, and usability not to mention better customer experiences. Microsoft does an excellent job of documenting, maintaining, and informing its ecosystem of future changes to those APIs. 

Within the first half of 2020 alone, we’ve seen rapid expansion, changes, innovation in the MDM market. The sudden move to remote work driven by COVID-19 has accelerated user requirements and vendor innovation in device and identity management. As the use of Macs and iPads among business users grows, Admins have bigger requirements for tools that manage and secure those, and other, systems. In turn, vendors of those tools need to provide reliable and consistent experiences.  We all rely on Apple to be thoughtful of the downstream impacts from any changes to its MDM API that could disrupt customers’ workflows across the globe. 

Apple has a strong customer base with avid support from colleagues, consumers, and technology partners. Our hope is Apple continues to strive for excellence by enabling and reliably supporting an ecosystem that expands its technology to provide more options for customers. Ensuring that the MDM protocol remains open, fully featured, well documented, and has a transparent roadmap is essential and will help all consumers who leverage any Apple MDM partner. 

Here at JumpCloud, we pride ourselves on helping make admins’ lives easier. We also publish our product APIs to give admins opportunities to extend the product to meet their specific needs. With any protocol or standard, customizing and developing new tools leads to broader workflows and more efficiencies. We, and millions of people, rely on the open Apple MDM API platform to do that. We hope Apple continues to enable us to support and extend its truly exceptional product line.

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