Apple may be preparing to take over a whole new market

Apple headquarters
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Breach Media)

A non-profit dedicated to exposing misconduct at private and governmental organizations has raised concerns over the behavior of Apple in the enterprise device management market.

In a new report, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) claims that Apple is preparing to put the squeeze on businesses currently operating in the space with a similar product of its own, Apple Business Essentials (ABE).

The concern is that Apple will take advantage of its control over the macOS ecosystem to make it impossible for other vendors to provide device management services in the regular manner, thereby eliminating the competition.

Apple tackles device management

The current leader in Apple device management is Jamf, which provides a broad suite of services that help set up and manage fleets of business Macs. It services upwards of 60,000 customers, both large and small.

When Apple launched ABE in November 2021, it was marketed as a service exclusively for small businesses, supporting only a selection of the features available with Jamf.

However, CfA claims Apple is preparing to scale up the operation imminently. The watchdog based this assessment on reports from IT administrators that suggest Apple is deliberately “degrading Jamf’s functionality”, making it difficult for admins to roll out security patches.

Critics of Jamf might ask whether it was wise to build a business whose success depends wholly on the good will of another organization. But the report argues Apple should not be allowed to stand on the shoulders of Jamf, which could be credited with establishing the market in the first place.

“Apple’s tight control over which companies can play in its sandbox means that it could very easily choose to break or drop Jamf if doing so could open up a new revenue stream,” said Michelle Kuppersmith, Executive Director at CfA.

“It was Jamf’s ideas and ingenuity that built the device management market that Apple seems primed to take over, but that may all be for naught if Apple decides to flip the switch.”

The watchdog argues that Apple’s device management play is just one example of a wider pattern of behavior, whereby the company incorporates new functionality into its product suite and uses aggressive tactics to limit the functionality of rival offerings.

The report cites the launch of AirTags as an example. In this instance, Apple stands accused of adding friction to the process of enabling similar products from Tile, in an effort to promote its own offering.

“Apple’s history of putting external apps out of business by rolling out similar features is well known, but thus far, regulators have done little to stop it,” Kuppersmith added. “If Apple repeats this playbook with Jamf—during a time when Apple is undoubtedly under the antitrust microscope more than ever before—regulators should not flinch at taking appropriate action.”

TechRadar Pro has asked both Jamf and Apple for comment. The formed declined to comment and the latter did not return a response.

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.