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Making the Grade: Custom domains for schools is the next logical step for Apple after bringing custom domains to iCloud

In my opinion, one of the most shocking pieces of news coming out of WWDC 2021 was that Apple was going to allow you to bring your own domain to iCloud+ sometime later this year.

About Making The Grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.

In the hours after the WWDC Keynote, there are always little “nuggets” of news that come out that didn’t make the event, but can often be pretty impactful because it can give you an idea of where Apple is moving in the future. When 9to5Mac first spotted the mention of the custom domains in iCloud in the moments after the Keynote, I knew immediately this was the first step to offering this service to schools.

When will it come to schools?

Apple is likely using this initial release of a custom domain option in iCloud as a testing ground for its plans for an iCloud+ for schools option.

I don’t know of any school willing to switch over the Apple for email over Google or Microsoft and be customer number one. Email is the critical infrastructure for most schools, and therefore it’s mission-critical that it works perfectly. Google and Microsoft have a 10-year head start providing corporate email where Apple will just be getting started.

By starting in the consumer market, Apple will fine-tune the switch-over process (changing MX records, etc.) and work out any bugs before offering it elsewhere.

How much will it cost?

I don’t see it costing any extra for schools for basic storage, but I could see Apple offer a $2-$5 per month per user upgrade option for additional features. Apple currently offers 200GB of storage for managed Apple IDs, so that is plenty of space for most people, but there are always people that will need more.

What impact will it make?

Apple is in a tough spot here with email. When it’s launched (probably 2022), it’ll be 10 years later than it should. It won’t be easy to convince schools to switch if they are already heavily invested in competing solutions. Where Apple’s new email solution will be beneficial is for schools making significant digital transitions.

When Apple goes into a school with a giant iPad and Mac rollout, they can offer email as part of the solution. Then it’ll be tightly integrated with managed Apple IDs, shared iPad, and likely with Apple’s MDM protocol in the future.

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