Will Apple ever enter the enterprise in any broad sense? Or will it remain a perennial niche solution? That's a popular technology question, along the lines of Windows vs. Linux or cloud vs. on-premise. Apple could finally be headed for mainstream enterprise acceptance, but not through its hardware (Macintosh computers, iPhones) or software (Snow Leopard operating system or Safari browser).
Instead a business model, the application store, is winning enterprise converts. Both enterprises and vendors that serve them seem eager to promote the model created by Apple for its iPhone that since has copied by manufacturers of other devices.
As IT Business Edge's Carl Weinschenk pointed out last spring, applications downloaded from Apple's store hit the billion mark in April. Apple averaged 3.5 million downloads daily since the store's launch on July 10, 2008, to reach that number. He also cited an Insight Research Corp. report that found 2.2 billion financial applications will be downloaded from 2009-2014, generating $124 billion for carriers and developers.
In September, Carl reported on the online marketplace for applications created using Google's Android OS, writing:
the maturation of the application stores is happening in parallel with an increasingly furious race to introduce the hottest new device.
Earlier this month, IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson noted that several providers of integration software, including Informatica, SnapLogic and MuleSoft have rolled out stores where developers can buy and sell connectors, mappings, vertical solutions and other integration-related tools.
Unless you've been under the proverbial rock, it's hard to miss the impact of app stores. Good luck finding someone who hasn't downloaded at least one app. (OK, my parents. And my in-laws.)
Even government agencies, not typically known as practitioners of cutting-edge IT, are throwing doors open on app stores. According to the I-CIO blog, federal CIO Vivek Kundra has launched Apps.Gov , a store he hopes will help lower the government's annual $75 billion IT budget, and which is also available to the public to buy and sell apps. Apps.Gov was modeled on the DC App Store, which Kundra introduced in 2008 while he was the District of Columbia's CIO. Part of that effort included the Apps for Democracy competition, which Kundra says created $2.3 million of value at a cost of $50,000. Several cities, including New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco, are working on similar projects.
So it's not surprising that members of silicon.com's CIO Jury are considering development of mobile apps as part of their companies' IT strategies, by a margin of eight to four. Alastair Behenna, CIO at Harvey Nash, called mobile apps a "fantastic opportunity for rapid innovation and excellent value for money." He said:
We've already developed a number of mobile apps across a number of platforms and will continue to develop more targeted and complex applications and utilities over the course of this year.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CIO Northern Europe at Sodexo, thinks mobile apps are another case of consumer IT setting the pace for business IT. He said:
As the world comes to expect connectivity anywhere, we need to match that with business functionality. More and more we are driven by expectations from the consumer market.
Of course, there's a possible snag. (You knew there would be, right?) There's the niggly little issue of mobile application development standards, which Carl wrote about earlier this month. More than 20 wireless companies-mostly carriers-are creating the Wholesale Applications Community, with the aim of creating a set of common open standards that will enable developers to write applications once for use on any network, device or operating system. The effort's supporters believe it will drive greater opportunity for all, while detractors worry that insisting upon a common denominator could limit the functionality of apps.