As we wrap up the decade, one trend has been clear: Apple’s enterprise growth. We heard at JNUC that all Fortune 500 companies are using Apple products. We’re seeing companies build enterprise security tools for macOS. We’re seeing from IBM that their employees who use macOS generally perform better at work as well. It’s been a great decade, and this week, I want to look at Apple’s top ten enterprise (and K-12) innovations.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers has been managing an enterprise IT network since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.

10. iOS

You might be thinking, but iOS was released before 2010. You are right, but it was renamed iOS in 2011 with the release of iOS 4. It signaled that the iPhone OS was going to become more than just an operating system for the phone. While iOS 4 wasn’t a huge release in hindsight, this symbolic gesture will go down as really kicking off the mobility revolution in the enterprise and K–12. iOS would eventually pave the way for iPadOS as well.

9. Over the air software updates

In iOS 5, users could now update their devices over the air. This feature meant that enterprise and K–12 customers could now update devices without having to pair to iTunes and go through that long process.

While future updates would allow mobile device management systems to force or delay the updates (thus giving IT even more choice), iOS 5’s OTA updates would set the foundation for a future where iOS didn’t need macOS. As someone who spent time updating dozens of devices by hand, over the air software updates no doubt deserves to be on an Apple top ten enterprise innovations list.

8. AirDrop


While it was quite buggy in the early days, AirDrop has become a foundational technology in the classroom. It makes it dead simple for teachers and students to share content without needing a syncing solution or even relying on fast Wi-Fi. If a student needs to share a large iMovie file quickly, it’s as simple as exporting and sharing via AirDrop. Before AirDrop, we’d use hacks like Shared Dropbox folders. It might seem like a small update, but I really believe it belongs on an Apple top ten enterprise innovations list.

7. AirPlay

You might think of AirPlay as a home technology, but it definitely belongs on Apple’s top ten enterprise innovation list. Released initially as AirTunes in 2004, AirPlay was released in 2010 and has been foundational in K–12 and the enterprise. It’s hooked right into Apple TV so people in conference rooms and students in the classrooms can share content to a larger screen. AirPlay 2 was released in 2018, and it’s continued to be used heavily across the enterprise and K–12 organizations. My only hope for 2020 is that Apple releases a less expensive Apple TV for organizations who simply want to use AirPlay 2 and not the other features.

6. Free OS updates

I wrote earlier this year about how Apple’s move to free OS updates has helped drive its growth in the enterprise.

There was also another reason IT departments didn’t want to upgrade a computer’s operating system: cost. Let’s go back to our $129 Mac OS X upgrade. Imagine if you had 500 machines? That’s a lot of money for an operating system that likely didn’t make a business more money and also created technical problems and required re-training. I wasn’t working with Apple in the enterprise during those days, but I am not sure how the upgrade process would even work? Since the upgrade came on a disc, pushing it out over the network would have likely been troublesome (if it was even possible). Would IT departments want to spend $65,000 to upgrade 500 machines to get new Dashboard widgets?

In an ever-connected world, free OS updates mean that IT departments can always have the latest security updates without worrying about the cost. Paired with zero-day OS support from folks like Jamf, it no longer feels as scary to install the latest updates.

5. Device-based app assignment

For many K–12 customers, deploying apps via MDM was difficult as their younger students didn’t have Apple IDs. Device-based app assignment. Device-based app assignment was released in iOS 9 and macOS 10.11. IT departments could push an app a the device regardless if an Apple ID is logged in to the device or not. They can quickly take it back as well. For my school, this is probably the number one thing on an Apple top ten enterprise innovation list, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. A perfect example of the usefulness here is if you have an expensive app you only want to use with a single classroom at a time. Apple has made it easy to buy only the exact licenses you need, install on a set of iPads without end user interaction, and then pull it back when you’re done.

4. Files app for iOS

As part of iOS 11, Apple released the Files app with support for third-party integration. The Files app is heavily integrated into iOS, so it feels as native as Finder does on macOS. Apps like Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive can appear alongside iCloud in the files app for users to work with their data. Instead of having to manage personal data in a separate place than work documents, you can now manage them in the same app, similar to how you’d work on macOS.

While the File app hasn’t always been the most stable, I believe it’s going to be a huge part of Apple in the enterprise and K-12 in the future. Regardless of your file syncing solution, you can leverage all the native aspects of the app being built into iOS.

3. iPad multitasking in iOS 11

While it remained challenging to use after the initial introduction in iOS 9, the multitasking features in iOS 11 began the iPad down a path where the iPad would be able to accomplish a lot more of the tasks that would typically require a Mac. iOS 11 brought an upgraded Dock, drag and drop multitasking, and more. While the iPad multitasking set up still isn’t perfect, Apple is continuing to work on exposing the power of iOS while keeping it simple to use.

2. The Volume Purchase Program

Apple School Manager

While I cannot find the exact release date of Apple’s Volume Purchase program, I remember it being around 2011/2012. It worked with Apple Configurator and compatible MDM vendors. It opened up a way for IT departments to buy apps in bulk, deploy them, and receive volume-purchase savings. It has now been replaced by Apple School Manager and Apple Business Manager, but it was a foundational technology for iOS and macOS management.

1. Mobile device management APIs


In my opinion, the number one thing on an Apple top ten enterprise innovation list should be its MDM APIs. On iOS, Apple innovated at a rapid pace year after year to give IT departments better control and manageability of their device fleets. A few of the important ones that come to mind are Supervised devices, Single app mode, Per-app VPN, zero-touch deployment, a long list of restrictions, and much more. Apple’s commitment to its MDM APIs is one of the foundational pieces of its enterprise growth strategy.

Wrap-up on Apple’s top ten enterprise innovations

It’s been a great decade to work with Apple in K-12 and the enterprise. They’ve invested in their hardware, software, and with the support of third-party partners like Jamf, they’ve been able to be deployed in all Fortune 500 organizations. I’ve included a GIF above showing some of the things Apple has built to help enterprise customers that they showed off at the recent JNUC conference.

Did I cover the most important things on my Apple’s top ten enterprise innovations list? If you work in IT, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what innovations Apple has delivered that has made your life easier.

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About the Author

Bradley Chambers

Bradley lives in Chattanooga, TN.

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