Image: iStock/Christian Mueller

The 2010s introduced a variety of computing and networking innovations. From the revolutionary new Apple iPad tablet platform to such networking technologies as cloud computing, internet elements birthed in the previous decade did nothing but gain traction and come of age the past 10 years. While Apple introduced numerous new business-focused services, five deserve particular attention. Here’s a look at the five most important Apple business services introduced in the past 10 years.

SEE: Top 10 IT trends of the last 20 years (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Volume Purchase Program for Business

Introduced in 2010 to iOS users and updated over time to include Macs in 2013 and additional countries in 2014 and 2016, Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP) provides businesses with discounted pricing for apps and iBooks. The platform also integrates with mobile device management (MDM) services, permitting IT departments to centralize administration and distribution of apps and titles throughout their organizations.

Apple’s VPP simplifies licensing and application tracking. Instead of having to track numerous accounts and reimburse employees for authorized software purchases, the applications can be administered from within a corporate account. Because redemption URLs are provided within the VPP console, administrators can email links to users for application installation–including for custom programs–or push installation via an MDM platform or Apple Configurator. Such functionality saves time, adds efficiencies, and simplifies auditing–all wins for everyone from small businesses to enterprise organizations.

2. Apple Business Manager

Launched in summer 2018, Apple Business Manager is an upgrade to the VPP for Business that assists technology administrators in better leveraging MDM platforms to deploy iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TVs throughout an organization. Device settings, federated Microsoft Azure Active Directory authentication, VPP investments, and apps and book title administration can all be configured, monitored, and maintained using the Apple Business Manager platform.

Trying to individually manage applications, titles, device settings, program licensing, and federated Active Directory logins quickly becomes a nightmare for even small businesses. Integrating Apple Business Manager with an MDM solution permits firms to spend less time tracking one-off issues and problems in favor of centralized management and administration of apps, users, and assets.

SEE: More Decade in Review coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

3. iCloud

Once a personal and lightweight internet services option, MobileMe morphed from being a data synchronization and internet storage solution into a full-fledged cloud-based services package capable of fueling business operations when the service was upgraded to iCloud in October 2011. The cloud service replaced MobileMe data syncing for email, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, reminders, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, videos, application files, backups, device configurations, and more.

The iCloud engine hasn’t remained stagnant. The technology has evolved and now permits graceful integration of Apple TV devices in conference rooms, powers file sharing and collaboration for teams, and assists with ensuring important data is automatically backed up offsite.

SEE: Decade in tech: What stood out or fell flat in the 2010s (ZDNet)

4. Apple Push Notification Service

Services can be of both the business-to-business (B2B) immaterial product and software types, and sometimes an operating system service of the software variety provides business advantages. Such is the case with the Apple Push Notification service (APNs), introduced for Macs with Mac OS X Lion in July 2011.

The APN service powers remote notification features for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users. The technology works by creating, according to Apple, “an accredited, encrypted, and persistent IT connection between your app and APNs.” Because APNs send notification information directly to these devices and integrate with MDM solutions, the notifications can be leveraged to manage user interaction. For businesses, that means organizations can centrally administer systems. Thanks to APNs, authorized administrators can improve endpoint security, monitor compliance, erase missing or stolen iPhones, iPads, and Macs, reactivate such equipment, update software programs, and receive automated asset inventory updates.

SEE: Decade in Review 2010 – 2019 (CNET)

5. Apple Music for Business

A potentially surprising element landing on the top five list is brand new: Apple Music for Business. Working in partnership with PlayNetwork Inc.–which, according to a November 2019 Wall Street Journal article, manages commercial licensing, custom playlist, and operations responsibilities–Apple Music for Business is essentially iTunes for commercial businesses. There are reportedly some 25 different firms using the new service introduced in November 2019. When these initial clients’ services are entirely deployed, The Wall Street Journal article estimated the 25 accounts will deliver music to more than 10,000 stores.

That’s quite a footprint. Particularly intriguing is the fact that Apple rarely partners with other firms; the company typically insists on possessing full control of its initiatives. The Apple Music for Business partnership demonstrates Apple’s willingness to explore the service’s potential, with the goal likely being to market consumer services within those businesses using the new commercial music service. But businesses benefit, too, due to the ability to receive and provide fresh material, eclectic playlists, and ambient background music that’s properly licensed without having to hassle with another vendor and additional legal and licensing requirements. Featuring an easy-to-use interface, the ability to specify playlists by location and a variety of playlist scheduling options, Apple Music for Business is yet another way Apple is eliminating headaches for business owners.

What are your picks for Apple’s 5 most important business services? Do you agree or disagree with this top-five list? Post your own Apple top-five business services list in the comments below.