Apple in 2019: Expect more focus on enterprise identity, device ownership

Apple has done much in recent years to make it easier for IT admins to deploy, provision and manage all manner of Macs, iPhones and iPads. Here's how it did so, and what's likely to come next.

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Agam Shah

If 2018 was the year Apple revamped its relationship with enterprise users, 2019 is likely to be year the company keys in on device ownership and identity in the workplace. In fact, Apple has been signaling this kind of focus for a while with a series of moves that have shifted how it handles hardware management and lay the groundwork for the year ahead.

Those seemingly unrelated moves will allow the company to strengthen its role in handling enterprise identity regardless of device ownership, allowing it to offer IT admins more flexibility and management options down the road.

Here's what the company has done over the past couple of years:

  1. At its annual developers conference in 2017, Apple announced planned changes to several enterprise controls for its devices; instead of applying to all managed macOS and iOS systems, the controls would apply only to those in Supervised mode. (It's essentially a more stringent posture of device management intended only for company-owned hardware, not for personal phones and tablets brought to work.) At the time, Apple expected the changes to roll out in 2018 with the release of macOS Mojave and iOS 12. But implementation was pushed into 2019 at the request of developers, vendors and customers.
  2. Then, in early 2018, Apple said it was effectively shutting down its server platform - and it advised customers to transition to alternatives, including the open-source solutions some of macOS Server's features were built around. One of the most common functions has always been Open Directory, Apple's native Directory service. Although the shift doesn't mean a shutdown of Open Directory or directory services on the Mac, which also supports Active Directory and other LDAP directory services, it is a curious move. Apple is essentially deprecating its server platform while still supporting its own directory service (and in some cases - as with the company's Xsan cluster management solution - requiring it).(It's important to remember: iOS doesn't have a true directory system at all. iPhones and iPads are designed as single-user devices, although iPads integrated with Apple School Manager and the Classroom app used in K-12 schools are an exception.)
  3. Apple is working to more tightly integrate its desktop and mobile offerings. 2018 included revelations about Marzipan, a project within Apple to make it easier for developers to port applications between the two platforms. Although only a handful of iOS apps have made the jump to the Mac in Mojave, reviews haven't been exactly stellar and it seems the project has a ways to go. Still, it shows that Apple is working to ease development - and likely management - across its ecosystems.

That would have big implications for identity on the Mac.

Apple and enterprise identity: How we got here

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