No such thing as a disk image for mobile devicesGetting applications to mobile devices differs from performing the same task for larger systems. "If you think about desktops and laptops, enterprise IT for years has largely relied on a number of tools, perhaps most prominently the corporate disk image" to get applications installed, says John Dasher, vice president of products and marketing at AppCentral. "There really isn't a corporate disk image for a mobile device."
This is where the enterprise app store comes into play, he says. Companies developing their own custom applications, for example, do not want to make their intellectual property available in a commercial app store, so they set up their own.
App stores also enable employee access from wherever they might be. ThinkBasis, which sells sales applications to plastic surgeons, is using the App47 application store service because it lets employees access applications from different locations. "We needed something that allows us to give [sales staff] the tools they need" for remote access, says Nick Dumitru, ThinkBasis's president.
The corporate app store movement is in its early days, says Dasher, estimating less than 10% of enterprises now have them. Apple's iOS and Google's Android are the dominant choices.
GE gets an early app store startGeneral Electric launched its own corporate app store for employees in 2009, calling it GE AppCentral, although it is not connected to the vendor of the same name. Employees have downloaded applications more than 350,000 times, including productivity and service-oriented software. Users can access the store on their mobile phone or via the Web and have an application emailed to their smartphone, says Dayan Anandappa, CIO for digital media at GE. Mobilization is strategic to GE, he says, which is why it was an early adopter of the corporate app store. Users download applications based on specific access rights.
Another issue is recognizing the user interface has to be flexible. "When you're designing this, you have to be cognizant of the fact that people are going to be accessing through their mobile device with various form factors," Anandappa says. Thus, the right interfaces need to be provided, he says.
App store cloud services emergingApp47 launched its cloud-based service a year ago. The company also has an on-premise solution, geared mostly toward the federal government, which is not yet comfortable with using the cloud, CEO Schroeder says.
Likewise, AppCentral offers both SaaS and on-premise solutions. But similar to App47's experience, 85 to 90% of customers opt for the cloud version. "More and more companies are just figuring out the convenience and instant availability of cloud solutions just make a lot of sense," says products VP Dasher.