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Our customer wants us to write a custom application for him that he can use on a handful of iPads in his company. This application is probably only useful for this one customer (maybe for two or three more in the future, but only after additional customization).

I read that if the customer subscribes to Apple's Volume Purchasing Program, we are able to provide him with a custom B2B application. This, however, seems to be restricted to US developers (or customers? or both?).

What are the alternatives for Europe-based (or, more generally, non-US) software developers and their local customers?

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I noticed one "too localized" close vote already. Classifying the whole world outside the US as "a small geographic area" is quite a bold statement... – Heinzi Mar 16 '12 at 16:12
@Heinzi Too localized doesn't necessarily mean geographical. I agree though - this applies to a significant number of developers. – Michael K Mar 16 '12 at 17:44
would jailbreaking the ipads to install a non apple approved app be an issue? – Ryathal Mar 16 '12 at 17:58
Did you ask Apple? – Yannis Mar 16 '12 at 18:17
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The "correct" solution to this is that your client creates an Enterprise Account with Apple to develop in-house apps. You create that app and sign it with profile/identity of your client.

Yes, your client will have to pay a (rather small) yearly fee. But with any luck they will want more apps anyway. :)

You could of course create the Enterprise account for yourself, telling Apple that you'd develop for yourself and use it to distribute that app to any clients that want to go this way. You won't set up a shop system anyway and Apple would probably not notice or care. But it would be a breach of the Enterprise Account contract and thereby I do NOT recommend doing this. Your client will probably gladly pay the yearly developer fee.

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As you point out, what the author's client wants, requires an EA from Apple. The author should inform that client of the additional cost and simply add it into the cost of the application. The client clearly wants the application enough to hire somebody to write it, if they have the equipment, its unlikely to be a problem. This should be simply billed into the price of the application itself. – Ramhound Mar 19 '12 at 12:39

What I'm doing in a similar situation is creating a web based intranet app that mimics tablet functionality. There are a number of JQuery frameworks that will work for this, like Sencha Touch. This would allow you to avoid the Apple "pay wall" and work with Android based tablets and even webkit based browsers on desktop/laptops as well.

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That's a very good idea; unfortunately, the app must work "on the road" without Internet connection. – Heinzi Mar 16 '12 at 17:39
That's unfortunate. It's getting relatively rare these days of "the cloud" to have someone request an unconnected app. – jfrankcarr Mar 16 '12 at 17:59
I guess the trend goes towards local apps that sync their data with the cloud, at least for mobile devices. Imagine a salesman visiting a potential customer and then saying "Oh, I'd love to take your order on my iPad, but it looks like I don't have Internet connection here..." – Heinzi Mar 17 '12 at 21:55
Or they take the order and when they sync up they find that the product has already been purchased by someone else and the next available inventory is weeks away. I did the sync thing in the 90's and early 00's. I'm glad to now have virtually instant updating of order and inventory data. I'd only recommend the sync approach if the users were frequently out of mobile internet range. – jfrankcarr Mar 17 '12 at 22:16

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