TTP Report: Apple Faces Antitrust Test in Treatment of Jamf
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2022
Contact: Michael Clauw, email@example.com, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report detailing Apple’s treatment of device management software maker Jamf, which raises questions about possible anti-competitive behavior. Jamf, which is widely used in the corporate world, is exclusive to Apple products and relies on Apple’s cooperation to run effectively. But Apple recently released a similar product to Jamf—for now targeted at small businesses—that caused Jamf stock to drop sharply. TTP found that IT administrators on Jamf message boards are complaining it’s getting harder for Jamf to patch security holes in Apple devices, suggesting that Apple may be degrading Jamf’s functionality. That’s a potentially ominous sign for Jamf, given past accusations that Apple has undermined third-party apps before introducing an identical feature of its own.
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “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. 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.”
Jamf, which provides a subscription-based software that helps institutions set up, manage, and secure their Apple devices, counts more than 62,000 customers—including Apple itself. However, Jamf got a jolt in November 2021, when Apple announced Apple Business Essentials (ABE), a platform that—like Jamf—gives businesses a way to manage their employees’ Apple devices. In the days after Apple announced ABE, Jamf’s stock plunged more than 30%
Apple’s ABE, which officially rolled out in March 2022, is currently limited to small businesses with up to 500 employees and provides only a subset of Jamf’s capabilities to its customers. But if Apple decides at some point to offer the product to larger companies with more comprehensive security needs, the company would move into direct competition with Jamf.
A review of recent customer comments on Jamf’s community message boards suggests that there’s been a breakdown in the way Apple and Jamf work together. Multiple IT administrators on the message boards complain that one of Jamf’s key functions—pushing Apple operating system updates to Macs—has gotten buggy and more complicated, making it harder for them to patch security holes. “The fact that I’m struggling that hard to do something so fundamental baffles me,” one customer wrote.
Apple has a long history of incorporating the features of into its own. For example, Tile, which makes a smart tracker that helps users find lost items, told a congressional panel in 2020 that changes to Apple’s iOS settings made it difficult for consumers to enable their Tile devices. A year later, Apple introduced AirTags. In another case, Apple abruptly shut down f.lux, an app that altered blue light from screens at night, saying the software violated its Developer Program Agreement. A few months later, Apple released iOS 9.3 with the same feature, called Night Shift.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “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. If Apple repeats this playbook with Jamf—during a time when Apple is undoubtably under the antitrust microscope more than ever before—regulators should not flinch at taking appropriate action.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.