Making The Grade is a new weekly series from Bradley Chambers covering Apple in education. Bradley has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

An e-mail account is one of the first things you get when you are hired at a school as a faculty member. It’s your identity. It’s how you contact people. It’s how they contact you. For all the other excellent communication services in 2018, e-mail is still essential.

It’s also an area that Apple continues to ignore for anything outside of personal use.

If you aren’t in the education world, I’m going to tell you something you may not know: G-Suite (Google’s enterprise server for Gmail-type services) is free for schools. It’s been free since at least 2009 (as far back as I’ve been working in education). On top of this, they include unlimited storage.

Why does this matter to Apple? For every iPad that is deployed to a staff member, that person also has an email account. The two most common providers in education today are Google and Microsoft.

Both of those companies also sell hardware devices to schools. Schools mainly have three choices for device ecosystem: Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Schools can be all in on Google, all in on Microsoft, or partially in on Apple.

Most of the schools I talk to use G-Suite. While Microsoft isn’t entirely out of the hardware game in schools, Google and Apple are the dominant providers. School districts where every kid has an iPad likely also has a G-Suite account. What do you think is easier to replace: end-user hardware or the entire back end communication infrastructure? If you guessed the former, you are right.

I say all of that to say, Apple has ignored building an identity management system for schools. Yes, they have managed Apple IDs, but do you know which email account they ultimately tie back into? Most likely a G-Suite account.

Imagine if personal iCloud accounts didn’t include email/contacts/calendars syncing? What if you had to create a Gmail or Outlook account to manage your personal data on Apple devices? Apple would be letting its main competitors have access to its customer base. Imagine if every iOS user had a Gmail account?

There is no way to be all Apple as a school. You can be all iPad, but then you need someone else for email, contacts, and calendars.

Going forward, I would advise Apple to build a true iCloud for Schools. What does that look like? For starters, schools would point their MX records at Apple. They would then be able to create accounts using iCloud as the backend. This service would include email, contacts, calendars, iCloud Drive, etc. When users go to sign into their iPad or Mac, they would use their address to access all of their data.

This setup is roughly how G-Suite works. When you login to ChromeOS, you simply use your G-Suite login and all of your information appears.

By allowing Google to continue have “their hooks” into school districts, they are letting their fiercest competitor have a backdoor into pulling schools away from Apple hardware onto Chromebooks. Chromebooks have sold very well in education, and its integration with G-Suite accounts only makes it more likely to continue in the future.

For the sake of iPad and macOS, Apple needs to build an actual identity solution for schools. By limiting iCloud to personal use, they are keeping schools some Google, if not all Google.

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