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By Abby Starr | PM & Chris Baldwin | Principal PM - Microsoft Endpoint Manager - Intune

 

It’s a common practice for an organization to require pre-production testing for new versions of apps before releasing them to everyone. Starting in the April 2020 release, IT administrators can use Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) – Intune – to manage deployments of apps from Managed Google Play’s pre-production tracks for Android Enterprise devices. For example, you may want to establish a private “early adopter” group that will be given access to the pre-production release to gather feedback. Once your app has been validated, you can use Intune to publish the app to all users. These capabilities are available for any current and future Android Enterprise management scenario that uses Managed Google Play – work profile, dedicated, and fully managed.

 

About Managed Google Play tracks
Tracks is a feature of Google Play for use by app developers. To use pre-production tracks with Intune, you will need to be familiar with how to publish pre-production apps to Play using these tracks. To familiarize yourself with this feature of Google Play, refer to Google’s app developer/publisher guidance here:

 

To use the tracks feature, the following prerequisites must be in place:

  1. Your Intune tenant must be connected to Managed Google Play: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/mem/intune/enrollment/connect-intune-android-enterprise.
  2. Your app must be published to a pre-production track within Managed Google Play under a closed test.
  3. You need to know the Managed Google Play “Organization ID” that corresponds to your MEM tenant.

How to find your Organization ID:

  1. Sign into the managed Google Play Store (https://play.google.com/work) with the account originally used to connect your MEM tenant to Managed Google Play.
  2. Click ‘Admin Settings’ on the left-hand side (https://play.google.com/work/adminsettings).
  3. Make note of the Organization ID listed on the page.

 

Overall workflow
This graphic depicts the general workflow for using Play’s pre-production tracks.

Abby1.png

First, the app publisher/owner needs to publish the pre-production build to Play. Then, the app publisher/owner needs to enable the pre-production track to be visible to a specific MEM tenant by pasting in the Organization ID that corresponds to that tenant. Finally, the IT admin uses the MEM console to control to which AAD groups to individual tracks should be published.

 

Adding MEM tenants to a Google Play closed pre-production track
Once you have an app build published to a pre-production track under a closed test, you will need to add your Intune tenant’s Organization ID to the track so that the app track is visible within the MEM console.

  1. In the Google Play Console, under Release Management > App releases, locate the pre-production track to which your app was published and click Manage:
    Abby2.png

  2. Expand the Manage testers section of the page and locate the Organizations section. Click Edit to open the list of allowed Organizations:
    abby3.png

  3. Paste or type the Organization ID that corresponds to your Intune tenant in this dialog:
    Abbyresizedone.png

 

MEM IT Admin Distribution Workflow
After you’ve added your tenant’s Organization ID, be sure to sync your Intune tenant with Managed Google Play to pull in the latest configurations. It may take a few minutes before the changes made in the Google Play console are propagated and are visible.

 

The flow for assigning a production version to a group that currently exists isn't any different from assigning a non-production channel. Once the app track information is sync’d into MEM, if an app has a pre-production track you will see a “Tracks” column when creating Assignments for apps.

 

To assigning a track to a group, click on the Tracks column to select which track to assign:

abby4.png

abby6.png

 

If you assign multiple release tracks to the same group, the resulting installation will always be the track that has the highest version number.

 

Other considerations

  • Managed Google Play supports the ability to configure an arbitrary number of pre-production tracks for an app; MEM supports up to 10 tracks per app. Let us know if you have a need for more (either by commenting on this post or through a UserVoice item). 
  • There is no way to downgrade to an earlier app version on the Android platform without uninstalling and reinstalling an app. For example, if both a Beta and Production channel are assigned to the same target, in order for the end user to see the production version the IT administrator must un-assign the beta track, then have the end user uninstall and reinstall the app.
  • This pre-production flow can be enabled for both public and private Managed Google Play Apps. The app publisher will still require your organization ID.
  • IT admins can monitor which version of an app is installed by viewing reporting blades and looking at the version numbers for each app.
  • As mentioned before, this workflow requires the use of the MGP console in the browser.

 

We hope this article was helpful! Feel free to reply back on this post if you have additional questions or comments.

1 Comment
Senior Member

Great feature. Would be happy if something like this was also available for iOS.