Apple device management finds niche despite UEM trend, Jamf CEO says

Dean Hager, CEO of Apple device management vendor Jamf, discusses the pros and cons of his company's iOS- and macOS-focused approach to enterprise mobility.

A product that provides only Apple device management might seem out of place in today's mixed-endpoint enterprise.

Apple's iOS leads the enterprise mobility market, but Google Android is common, as well. The major enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors support both operating systems, plus Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and more. And the latest trend in EMM is to support Windows 10 and Apple macOS -- a concept known as unified endpoint management. But Jamf, a Minneapolis-based provider of macOS and iOS management software, hasn't bought in.

"We get asked questions about, 'It would be more efficient for us if we could use a single platform for all devices,'" said Jamf CEO Dean Hager. "We refer to that as unicorn endpoint management, because it's talked about more than it's actually done."

Jamf, founded in 2002, got its start in the education sector, where Macs and now iPads dominate. The company today manages 7.5 million Apple devices across more than 10,500 customers, and about half are businesses, Hager said. This week, Jamf added support for Apple's Device Enrollment Program for tvOS, which allows organizations to deploy managed Apple TV devices just as they'd deploy iPhones and iPads.

Dean Hager, CEO, JamfDean Hager

Here, Hager, who joined Jamf in 2015, discusses the role of Apple device management in modern businesses.

What types of businesses does Jamf see the most interest from?

Dean Hager: On the Mac front, it's all over the place. I've got a junior in college. I fear if she gets a job where they require her to use a Microsoft device ... because I don't know that she's ever used one. I'm not saying Mac is going to become the dominant device within the workplace, but more organizations are realizing that they simply need to ask new employees, 'What device would you like to use?'

With iOS, it's more about how they're trying to transform their business operations. The one that we're seeing a lot of momentum in is healthcare: putting iPads into patients' hands while they're in the hospital, providing patient care through telemedicine, providing iPads and iPhones to doctors and nurses for the purpose of clinical communication.

Other industries that are going through the digital transformation are retail, field services and transportation.

There are still a lot of things IT pros can't do in terms of Apple device management that they would like to. What are the top requests you hear?

Hager: A lot of IT organizations go, 'We want to stop people from upgrading to the most recent [iOS] release. Jamf, can you help us? Apple, can you give us restrictions?' But that's a slippery slope. Over time, as releases get old, that opens up security vulnerabilities. That opens up application compatibility vulnerabilities.

What challenges does it pose for Jamf when customers offer device choice?

Hager: If [users] choose Apple and you give them, let's say, a Microsoft experience, they're not going to be happy. We specialize in providing that same Apple experience that you would get as a consumer ... rather than having a restrictive environment.

The experience that can be created on Apple simply cannot be created on other devices.
Dean HagerCEO, Jamf

Organizations are bringing in more management providers, not fewer. From an IT perspective, we'll say, 'You're using us specifically for the Apple devices. But you'll save on your support costs, because we can do for the user all the things that they want to do, rather than managing to the lowest common denominator of all the devices.'

Does Jamf have plans to move beyond Apple device management?

Hager: We can't. Nobody has the Device Enrollment Program but Apple. Nobody has a Volume Purchase Program but Apple. The experience that can be created on Apple simply cannot be created on other devices.

What has surprised you most about working in the mobile technology market?

Hager: I started in tech in the '80s with IBM, so I had a good couple of decades where IT was a dictatorship. 'Here's the device you're going to use, and you're going to like it.' The job that IT had to do seemed to be the higher priority, as opposed to creating an experience for the user that made employment at that organization attractive. These days ... users have a voice unlike ever before.

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