App stores have been great for consumers and developers. One-click purchasing is awesome. But as a small business owner, they cause us nothing but grief.
In the boxed software world, I knew that if we bought iWorks, that the company owned it. It became an asset of the company. And if we were really good, we could keep track of the serial numbers of the software we bought so that if anything happened to the physical media, we could still install the software.
The app store makes this much harder. All of us are on Macs here at Cloud Four. And while the computers we use are owned by the company, we all use our Macs to buy music, videos, and software that is for personal use.
In fact, it is much easier for everyone to simply use their personal iTunes account so that their purchases sync across multiple devices. It isn’t perfect, but it works well enough.
Until we need to buy some software for work. If the we buy the software using our personal account, it is encrypted and tied to our personal iTunes account. There is no way to transfer it to another person if we leave the company or if we simply no longer have use for the software and someone else does.
In truth, the software should be owned by the company. The company should be able to buy software and move it to whatever machine makes the most sense now or in the future.
But as far as I can tell, there is no way to do this. There is a business volume purchasing program, but that only applies for a minimum of 20 license purchases which doesn’t make sense for us. There is a similar business app store for iOS, but only certain apps participate and if they don’t, then you’re out of luck.
I’ve talked to another company that buys employees gift cards so they can buy apps. But whether it is gift cards or reimbursements, it doesn’t get around the basic problem that the software is cryptographically signed and associated with someone’s personal account instead of the company account.
Does anyone have a solution for this? Is there some obvious solution for small businesses that I’m missing? How do other companies handle this?