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Apple @ Work: A look back at the release of Apple Configurator 1.0, and why the app is still important today

Apple @ Work: A look back at the release of Apple Configurator 1.0, and why the app is still important today
Written by Techbot

Apple @ Work is brought to you by Addigy, the ONLY real-time Apple device management platform that combines MDM with live agent capabilities to manage and secure your Apple ecosystem — regardless of your Mac-spertise. Visit addigy.com/9to5Mac for a free 14-day trial to see how Addigy helps you manage your Apple devices in real-time.

Apple Configurator 1.0, released back in 2012, did away with the need for thousands of iTunes accounts, but it also revolutionized the device management capabilities of supervised iOS devices. Previously, device deployments were limited to manual configuration and supervision by someone on-site, but Apple Configurator brought a new vision for mass deployment to educators and businesses.

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed an enterprise IT network from 2009 to 2021. 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.


Apple Configurator 1.0

Apple Configurator 1.0, released to the public back in 2012, did away with the need for thousands of iTunes accounts, but it also revolutionized the device management capabilities of supervised iOS devices. The idea behind Apple Configurator is to simplify device management by assembling all the settings you want on an iPad or iPhone in one place and then deploying them with ease. It also brought the idea of the Volume Purchase Program to life where users could purchase apps in bulk, and deploy them to multiple iOS devices at once. Previously, IT administrators would sync apps over iTunes. Yes, you’d sync apps to multiple iOS devices at once over… iTunes. In case you’re wondering, yes, it was slow. Again, prior to Apple Configurator 1.0, the idea of deploying iOS devices was a constant battle of workarounds.

Over the next ten years, mobile device management solutions would take over much of what Apple Configurator did, and in a much more scalable way. Instead of syncing over a wire, IT administrators would push everything out over the air. I still believe Apple Configurator is important software to know how to use, though.

Why Apple Configurator still matters

Apple Configurator for iPhone

Previously, device deployments were limited to manual configuration and supervision by someone on-site. This could be a time-consuming process, especially when deploying hundreds or thousands of devices at once. Apple Configurator brought a new vision for mass deployment; the ability to automate and simplify the process of configuring a large number of devices, all from one centralized location.

Apple Configurator isn’t a complete MDM solution. You must connect Apple Configurator directly to a device in order to manage it – it lacks key features that would give you the ability to manage devices remotely, assign users, and use other advanced options that businesses and schools need.

However, you can use Apple Configurator to supervise devices that aren’t connected to a wireless network; for example, kiosk or reference devices. It’s a useful tool for advanced users and administrators who want to manage their devices directly, rather than via an MDM solution. It can also complement an existing MDM implementation by allowing you to access your organization’s infrastructure when needed. If you don’t want a fully zero-touch deployment, it can be beneficial for kickstarting the enrollment process for new devices and automatically include a Wi-Fi profile configuration. 

One area I still find Apple Configurator to be incredibly useful is in mass updating devices to the latest version of iOS. If you’re in a place with limited or metered bandwidth, it can be much more manageable to collect the devices you’re responsible for and update them using the same iOS download. I’ve talked with IT administrators in emerging markets, and they just don’t have the bandwidth to update all of their devices individually, and it’s much faster to collect and update over a USB cable with Apple Configurator.

Wrap-up

Apple Configurator is an important part of the history of managing iOS devices at work. It was one of the first tools to be specifically designed for managing and deploying large numbers of iOS devices, and it paved the way for many of the powerful and versatile management tools that are available today over mobile device management solutions.

Apple @ Work is brought to you by Addigy, the ONLY real-time Apple device management platform that combines MDM with live agent capabilities to manage and secure your Apple ecosystem — regardless of your Mac-spertise. Visit addigy.com/9to5Mac for a free 14-day trial to see how Addigy helps you manage your Apple devices in real-time.

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