Not long - minutes really - after I blogged about the issues around App Store DRM, Apple announced the App Store Volume Purchase Program.

Put simply: this is perfect … for universities.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The institution buys a “volume voucher” on a purchase order.
  2. Apple mails the vouchers to the school.
  3. A “program facilitator” at the school decides which apps and how many.
  4. The “facilitator” then gets a number of coupon codes - a bit like promo codes.
  5. The coupons are distributed to students, who then redeem the coupons in their own iTunes accounts for a ‘free’ copy of the app.

It sounds like a great system for any organisation that wants to distribute copies of a third party app to a certain clientele.

In a university situation, I imagine that the students own their iPad and manage it with their own iTunes Account. The App Store VPP seems like a great way for the university to give the students access to specific apps.

There are a few problems for schools:

  1. Pupils don’t own the iPad, we do.
  2. If pupils manage their iPad through their own account, they’re presumably syncing it at home and we can’t then offer any backup facilities in school.
  3. When a pupil leaves, they take their iTunes account with them and we have to re-buy the app for the next pupil to use that iPad.
  4. The majority of pupils are under 13 years old and can’t have their own personal iTunes account.
  5. A reasonable proportion of the school are not capable of managing their own iPad appropriately - most because they’re too young but, sadly, some because they’re too irresponsible.

What I’m looking for in school is a way for the school to own a certain number of licenses and to deploy them to iPads rather than to individuals.

A few readers were unhappy that our current setup results in us paying for three copies of an app, which then gets distributed to 115 iPad users. I share those concerns and would be delighted to deploy a more appropriate number of licenses if we had flexible enough DRM tools to let us do what we need to do.