Home > Mobile - App Marketplace > Is there a need for an Enterprise Mobile App Marketplace product?

Is there a need for an Enterprise Mobile App Marketplace product?

I was just reading the latest Gartner study on Mobile App Store Revenues on TechCrunch and it brought back memories of different conversations I’ve had over the last few years with enterprise customers.

From TechCrunch

It seems that there is more fragmentation happening within the App Marketplace arena than there is in the mobile operating systems ecosystem in general.   There are the Tier I providers lining up (Apple AppStore, Android market, Nokia Ovi Store, RIM AppWorld, Microsoft Marketplace, Samsung Apps & then Amazon).   The Tier II guys like GetJar & Pocketgear/Handango and then there is even a Tier III market forming with entrants like AndSpot, Berrystore & AppBrain.   Ouch…

However, I’m not sure it ends there…  Companies and government agencies have told me that they want their own App Marketplace for their customers, business partners and their employees.

Why for their customers?

In many ways hosting mobile apps that customers use in Apple iTunes or Google Marketplace is fine because there is scale to the reach those portals provide.  However by hosting applications on those portals the portal owner gets access to some of the analytics and potentially a piece of the revenue stream for activities such as in-app purchases.  If the company has a pointer from their website (as they should) to one of these portals so customers can easily download their applications they also are sending traffic away from their site and handing it over to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon etc..… who knows what they will do to a customer once pointing them that direction (i.e. market to them).

With Apple iTunes there is no other way to distribute commercial applications to customers – companies have to go through iTunes, but for Google Android companies can freely distribute applications (apk file) from any portal including their own website.   With the oncoming success of Google Android this will likely become more and more the desire.

Why for their employees?

What if an enterprise company wants to distribute line of business applications to their employees?  Well, Apple provides an enterprise certificate to companies so they can distribute iOS applications freely (and there really is no issue with Google Android app distribution to employees).  However if companies want to distribute a line of business application on their own without the help of one of the major portals they lose the ability to easily track who downloaded their applications, tract ratings on applications, track crash logs for applications and many of the other great things companies like Apple have packaged as part of iTunes.

Why business partners?

With line of business applications for a company’s business partners there really is no good solution at the moment for Apple other than to host an application in iTunes (Apple enterprise certificates can only be used by employees of the company).

So what do companies really want?

What enterprise customers really want is to have a white labeled version of iTunes for themselves and to have their applications indexed by external and internal search portals to draw customers, business partners and employees from the search to the companies external and internal app distribution sites.

The US Army has been thinking about this problem for quite some time.  Here are a few references mentioning some preliminary thinking and I would expect a procurement anyday on http://fbo.gov:

Who will solve the problem and how?

There are several companies out there trying to solve parts of the problem with different architectural solutions.

  • Salesforce.com would prefer you did everything LOB via their workflow.  See Force.com
  • Citrix prefers you do it all virtually See Dazzle
  • JackBe prefers you do it all with HTML development.  See Presto
  • Ondeego and Apperian prefer you limit your OS choices. See  AppCentral and EASE

So who will solve the issue?   It may be one of the smartphone management vendors outlined in the Forrester study mentioned in this CMSWire article.

Do you have thoughts?

  1. February 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    The points made are all well articulated and I agreement with them. However, AppCentral from Ondeego does not limit users to a single OS. Our software works on iOS, Blackberry, Android, and even J2ME devices. Is it interesting that you reference the work that the US Army is doing. Our software is used by the DoD and by both the Army and the Marine corp to deploy Android apps to troops that are in theater.

    You are right on the assessments of what companies want, but I would add some additional needs and then some limits. The additional need by enterprises is not only to solve the problem of app discovery and distribution, but also the management of apps. That is, once installed, they want to manage the Enterprise apps throughout their lifecycle. They want to make sure that the same version of the app is being used by all employees at the same time. They want to lock the app if the employee misplaces their phone. And, they want to wipe the app and delete the app if the employee leaves the company or looses their phone. These are the more difficult problems to solve. Finally, they also need to deal with both employee as well as company liable devices. What I mean by this, is that they know that there will also be non-company apps and data on the devices and these assets need to be excluded from the management of the device. No IT manager wants to deal with the liability of either backing-up or deleting private data off an employee’s phone.

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