Apple Configurator Released for Managing iOS Devices

| Product News

Apple released Apple Configurator this week, a new tool designed to allow corporate and enterprise IT departments to manage fleets of Apple devices. Enterprise IT staff have bemoaned the lack of better tools to manage fleets of iOS devices, and some recent government migrations to the iPhone and iPad have made it clear that a better solution was needed for managing these devices en masse—Apple Configurator is intended to meet that need.

Apple Configurator
Preparing iOS Devices with Apple Configurator

The new app makes it easy for the mass configuration and deployment of iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches in schools, businesses, and institutions. Apple Configurator updates 30 devices at a time to the latest version of iOS, configures settings to maintain a standard configuration, and installs apps and data onto the devices.

In addition, Apple Configurator can be used to enroll each device with a Mobile Device Management solution, enabling remote management by IT administrators and support personnel.

Apple Configurator
Configuring Settings and Apps in Apple Configurator

Apple Configurator allows the user to create and administer multiple “sets” of iOS devices, allowing custom configurations for each set. Preparing and maintaining iOS devices requires they be plugged into a dock connector to USB adapter, but Apple notes that connecting many devices via a high-speed USB hub will work just fine. Apple did point out that while there is no practical limit to the number of devices that can be configured with Configurator, there is a limit of thirty (30) devices that can be connected and managed via USB at any one time.

The app integrates with Open Directory and Active Directory to assign iOS devices to specific users, and allows the administrator to set standard configuration settings, approved policies, parental controls, and device personalization (including setting a user’s picture on their Lock screen.)

Apple Configurator
Assigning iOS Devices to Users is Easy in Apple Configurator

Apple Configurator is available for OS X 10.7.2 or later as a free download from the Mac App Store. The app is meant to replace the earlier iPhone Configuration Utility, which was difficult to use and not as feature-rich as Apple Configurator.

[Update March 19, 2012: This article was updated with clarification on the number of iOS devices that can be managed with this utility, as noted in body. - Editor]

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4 Comments

Dorje Sylas

Doing a quick overview of it I kinda find it lacking. It’s like a prettier iPhone Cofiguration Utility and still isn’t the tool ITs in business and schools are looking for.

It’s closer, but still not there. If Apple wants to get “post-pc” with this then it needs to be able to operate wirelessly. Push Apps/Data/Etc. Enable different configurations to “hide/deny-access” Apps if needed, say in a testing environment.

30 is also far to limited a number when we talk about K-12 schools.

bbbo

That’s 30 “at one gulp” not 30 total.

Personally, accuracy and reliability trump the features you site as lacking (my opinion as corporate admin). But they will come eventually. Apple does everything step-by-step; as they wisely should.

Jeff Butts

That’s an interesting distinction, “30 ‘at one gulp’ not 30 total,” and one I hadn’t given too much thought to. I can’t test this, since I don’t have more than 30 iOS devices to play with, but I wonder if the 30 device limitation is per set, or if the limitation is more like “I won’t recognize more than 30 connected devices at a time.”

Still, I disagree that 30 is a limited number when we talk about K-12 schools. The typical K-12 classroom is 30 or less, and proper organizational planning would assign the devices into sets matching classrooms.

I definitely agree, though, that wireless operation would be ideal, and I hope that Apple is planning that for a future release.

Finally, I think “hide/deny-access” Apps would be covered under Prepare -> Profiles (Create Profile) -> Restrictions. Once there, you can deny access to FaceTime, Siri, the camera itself, Photo Stream, iCloud, YouTube, Safari, and the iTunes Store. You can also prevent users from installing apps, making in-app purchases, or a host of other restrictions.

RobertRichmond

I have used this software and can confirm it is 30 at a time. This really depends upon the USB hub you are using however.

Being an IT manager at a school, and having used the software, I can say with confidence that 30 is not a limited number. Once the devices are set up the first time, it is extremely quick to update the devices. The software will allow you to update the devices, remove a device, and plug in another to allow the process to continue.

I am confident that Apple will eventually release a wireless version as well.

This software has more options than the iPhone configuration utility when you are talking about creating profiles. You will locate options which also cover iCloud here as well.

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