Apple’s new iPad may have grabbed all the headlines after Wednesday’s introduction of Apple’s latest tablet, but Apple also quietly released another piece of technology that gives a nod to the device’s rapid adoption in business settings and the need for mobile device management.

Appearing in the Apple Mac Store at the Apple site this week is the Apple Configurator, a free utility that “makes it easy for anyone to mass configure and deploy iPhone, iPad and iPod touch in a school, business or institution.” The introduction answers one of the big pain points among IT solution providers looking for a way to deploy these devices quickly, securely and profitably.

What’s more, the Configurator lets you supervise devices that need to maintain a standard configuration, Apple says. The Apple Configurator can also be used to personalize devices with data and documents for specific users.

Apple Configurator Info

Here are some of the capabilities of this new utility from Apple:
  • Enables configuration of up to 30 devices at a time
  • Enables updating of devices to the latest version of iOS
  • Lets you create and restore a backup of settings and app data from one device to other devices
  • Import apps into Apple Configurator and syncs them to new devices (Installing paid apps from the App Store requires redemption codes from the Volume Purchase Program for Education or Business, which is not available in all regions.)
  • Allows you to use the built-in editor to create and install iOS configuration profiles
  • Perhaps most important – it lets you enroll devices with your Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution for remote management
IT solution providers can also supervise devices with this utility. Among the deeper functions, Apple says the tool lets you
  • Organize supervised devices into custom groups
  • Automatically apply common configurations to supervised devices
  • Quickly reapply a configuration to a supervised device and remove the previous user’s data
  • Import apps into Apple Configurator and sync them to supervised devices
  • Define and apply common or sequential names to all devices
  • Restrict supervised devices from syncing with other computers

More Capabilities

Finally, the utility is also designed to enable you to assign devices to individual users in an automated way, simplifying the process. Here’s a look at what Apple says it will let you do.
  • Add users and groups manually or auto-populate via Open Directory or Active Directory
  • Check out a device to a user and restore the user’s settings and data on that device
  • Check in a device from a user and back up the data for later use, possibly on a different device
  • Apply custom text, wallpaper, or the user’s picture to a device’s Lock screen
  • Import and export documents between your Mac and Apple Configurator
  • Sync documents between assigned devices and Apple Configurator
This is a pretty full set of functions for a free tool and points to the growing appeal of Apple’s mobile iOS devices beyond the consumer market.  It was something that initially came as a surprise to Apple, which has been accustomed to the consumer market.

It was a little more than a year ago when Apple’s then CEO Steve Jobs told analysts: “We're already seeing tremendous interest in iPad from education, and much to my surprise, from business. We haven't pushed it real hard in business, and it's being grabbed out of our hands.”