Apple is launching a new program designed for business customers: App Store Volume Purchasing. With this option, U.S. businesses have a way to purchase mobile applications built by third-party developers in volume, using a corporate account. In addition, the program sets up a separate app store of sorts where developers can sell custom B2B apps just to those customers enrolled in the Volume App program.

Not a “Real” App Store, Just a Private Website

Apple already has volume app purchasing programs in place for educational institutions, but this is the first time it has extended a similar program to businesses. The Volume Purchase Program won’t have an “app store” in the traditional sense – that is, a downloadable client for the desktop or a mobile app available the iPhone or iPad, but will operate as a private website available only to select, pre-enrolled business customers.

The apps housed here, built either by third-party developers or business partners, can be designed specifically for the industry a business operates in or even just for an individual company itself. Instead of listing these more private applications alongside those meant for consumers in the general iTunes App Store, businesses can securely and privately purchase these B2B apps from from the Volume Purchase Program, a separate website accessed from a Mac or PC.

Who Can Enroll?

To use the website, U.S. businesses first have to enroll in the program, providing 3 pieces of information:

  • A Dun & Bradstreet (D-U-N-S) number for the company: Apple will cross-check program enrollees with the D&B database.
  • The business contact info, including email and phone number. Consumer email addresses (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo) are not permitted.
  • A valid business address that matches what D&B has on file.

After completing the enrollment, businesses will create a special Apple ID for the company to use in making the volume purchases.

How to Use the Program

When setup is complete, business customers can search for publicly available business-focused apps on the Volume Purchasing website, either by name or by pasting in an iTunes URL. They then must specify the quantity and checkout using their corporate account.

Apple will provide redemption URLs with codes which can be given out to the company’s end users though email, posting on an internal website or via a third-party MDM (mobile device management) solution which enables IT administrators to centrally manage codes.

In the case of custom B2B apps, these will not be listed in the general iTunes App Store, but will instead be provided to businesses directly from the development firm itself via the new Volume Purchasing website. Registered developers can build an app for the business (minimum price is $9.99) and then identify which companies are authorized purchasers, by way of the businesses’s Apple ID. This will make those apps visible on the program website for download only to authorized purchasers.

Note that custom B2B apps will still go through the same app review process as those for consumers, even though they’re not going to be sold in iTunes. That means employees from Apple will log in and test the application itself before it’s made available. If the app handle sensitive or proprietary business data, the business will need to work with the developer to provide a generic account or sample data during the testing period.

“Coming Soon”

The Volume Purchasing Program hasn’t launched yet, but is listed as “coming soon” on Apple’s website. Stay tuned to for the opportunity to enroll.

sarah perez