Enterprise Mobile App Development Must Mature Quickly

Carl Weinschenk
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The power of mobile devices and the speed of networks on which they operate are only two legs of a three-legged stool of advanced wireless services. The third leg is the general availability of increasingly sophisticated mobile applications.

Mobile apps are exploding in both the consumer and enterprise sectors. Kelton Research, commissioned by Sybase, released research this week that spoke to the growing focus on corporate applications. eChannel Line reports that Kelton found that 90 percent of IT managers plan to deploy new apps this year, and that 21 percent will introduce 20 or more. Almost half think that managing mobile applications is a top priority this year and 82 percent like the idea of hosting apps in the cloud.

Mobile application development and distribution are changing significantly, and many of the intricacies are being worked through by organizations on the fly.

Patently Apple posted what appears to be an abstract of a patent application - number 20110010759, by a gentleman named Mitchell Adler-for a system that would enable tight control over access to apps even in a huge app store. There is no commentary or explanation with the posting. Apparently, the system would enable an IT department to control the types of applications that are downloaded from the app store based on the properties of the app and the environment into which it is being downloaded.

Clearly, enterprise and consumer mobile applications aren't the same-just as desktop applications from the two realms differ. James Robertson, managing director of Step Two Designs, describes the differences. For instance, consumers rarely are asked to log into mobile applications, while enterprises routinely require this action.

The goal, Robertson says, is to design "personal enterprise apps." He lays out six requirements for this type of development, which focus on easing logons, leveraging personal identity-he points out that enterprises know more about their employees than consumer developers know about their potential customers-and on the proactive delivery of information. The bottom line is, however, that designing enterprise applications that are as user-friendly as what can be downloaded from app stores is a tall order.

The entire distribution model could change. Dennis Gaughan, managing vice president at Gartner, discusses the creation of app stores-along the lines of the Apple's App Store and Google Marketplace-for corporate applications. The idea is attractive, Gaughan writes:

Most organizations have more applications than they know what to do with. Wouldn't this conceptual model help us organize, deploy and maintain apps more easily? And wouldn't being able to track downloads and usage help us plan better for the apps in which we should invest more, perhaps even the ones we should be sunsetting? It's a very compelling idea, one that software vendors and service providers are thinking about to help sell more software and/or services.

There are a few challenges to the concept, however. Gaughan wonders how efficiently enterprise app stores can be made to work and if they can achieve the same user-friendliness of consumer app stores. He also asks how deployment would work. Despite those challenges, Gaughan thinks the idea has merit and writes that it "is a topic Gartner will be digging into in much more detail this year, so stay tuned." Gartner is influential, so that is not an unimportant comment.

The mobile enterprise sector is fluid. Mobile applications are proliferating at an amazing rate. The science of optimizing them for safe use in the enterprise is at an early stage. But it is an area in which a fast evolution of ideas and concepts is necessary.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 2, 2011 11:47 AM iphone developer iphone developer  says:

The mobile apps must integrate with enterprise IT process and ecosystem for the mobility program to be a real success.

Feb 14, 2011 9:47 AM David Rader David Rader  says:

Without a doubt the connection back to the Enterprise systems is critical. The whiz bang front-end mobile app is just the Tip of the Iceberg. 90% of the work and 99% of the success factors will be having APIs, entitlements, security, and an SOA that can connect your mobile apps to your systems to enable true productivity and new revenue channels. Read a whitepaper about this here http://www.allianceglobalservices.com/white-paper/Enterprise-Mobility-Strategy


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