For several years now, the gap between the intuitiveness of using an iPad and the sheer backwards hellishness of deploying large numbers of them has been curious, frustrating and counter-intuitive. Things have (very gradually) progressed, but several persistent problems have remained, forcing schools to compromise (and IT teams to work overtime). Having been part of several large iPad deployments, I can attest to how badly suited the available tools are to an enterprise-scale roll-out. Have a look at our recent deployment post to see what the process is currently like.
However, all this is changing from next month, when the company’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) makes the trip across the Atlantic to land in Europe. Fair play to Apple – the gap between US and UK availability has been only a few months. Previous initiatives such as the Volume Purchasing Program have taken much, much longer.
So, what will DEP change?
Answer: lots of little things that have great significance for schools with lots of iPads.
1. Zero-touch deployment. When you decide to buy an iOS or OSX device, you can configure it via your school’s DEP account, meaning that it arrives with its settings already in place – wifi connection, MDM profile, any apps you want installed. This is a dramatic change for IT teams, who previously would have spent weeks (no exaggeration) deboxing and then physically connecting each iPad via a cable to a computer to set it up. Good things flow from this: money is saved, staff are prevented from resigning at the mere suggestion of an iPad deployment, etc. Another really nice by-product is that children receiving an iPad get the full cellophane-wrapped boxed experience that perhaps is denied to many of those from poorer backgrounds. No one else’s fingerprints are on it, it hasn’t been used by previous generations of students, it’s for them, to learn with. This is a powerful statement of the value of their education.
2. Streamlined activation. A school can now edit the steps a user takes when setting up an iPad out of the box. Want to remove the question about location services? Don’t want pupils to have to choose which country they’re in? No problem. A small but useful enhancement.
3. Wireless Supervised Mode. This is a great change. Supervised Mode (SM) allows much greater control over certain features that either can be disruptive (iMessage, sweary Siri, Game Centre) or are actually extremely useful (a Global Proxy which forces all network traffic through your filters, a mandated and locked MDM profile). In the past, to put a device into SM you needed to cable it to a computer and use iTunes or Apple Configurator. Schools that didn’t do this, then rapidly wished they had, were faced with recalling student devices and starting again (the process also wipes the device’s content… not a popular move with users).
Probably the biggest advance here is the ability to mandate and lock the MDM profile. This is the configuration setting that forces the iPad to ‘follow the rules’ set by the school’s Mobile Device Management software. Previously, pupils could delete this and it wasn’t possible to prevent it, once the method of doing so had spread around the playground. In some cases, pupils just didn’t ever enrol in the MDM to start wilth. With mandated, lockable profiles now possible, a major gap in schools’ eSafety/ behaviour management of pupils with iPads has been filled.
The DEP is only available on devices bought directly from Apple or via a reseller that is participating in the program so the question to any potential reseller ‘Do you have a DEP code?’ now becomes a vital one! Schools have to register an account on Apple’s DEP site to get started.
With DEP, Apple finally has a deployment toolset that is appropriate for large-scale roll-outs and no school should consider processing more than a handful of iPads without it.