Is Apple planning a business app store? Why that would be a really good thing
Rumor has it that Apple is planning an app store focused on business apps for businesses (we heard it from a mobile developer). This is opposed to ‘business apps’ for consumers, which Apple’s App Store does in abundance. Whether or not this is true, Apple’s new focus on business apps – see this announcement about volume purchases for business and custom B2B apps, and this recent business-focused advertisement on the back of the Economist – is excellent news.
It is excellent news because whatever Apple talks about gives the chattering classes something else to chatter about. And the more people who talk about business apps, the more companies will question whether the mobile budget might be better spent mobilizing their business instead of bringing out B2C advertising apps that don’t do a lot to push forward the companies’ long-term mobile agendas.
The idea of using mobile apps to enable employees to do their tasks via mobile whenever and wherever necessary is one that every business should embrace. But it is debatable whether businesses will want to do this via native apps or via Apple’s business app store or wish to standardize on Apple’s iPhone or iPad.
It appears that the trend for early adopters of business apps is to set up a private or enterprise app store within the company. (The always-shrewd folk at Apple will be acutely aware of this, and it may well be guiding Apple's hand here). For companies that have the resources, obviously there’s a lot more to this than the enterprise app store (development and integration costs, security, device management, application management etc), this approach has clear advantages.
The in-house enterprise app store allows the company to:
a) Provide custom-made apps designed for the employee requirements;
b) Generic apps (if appropriate ones exist) purchased direct from the developer;
c) Decide what devices the company will standardize on – RIM is the incumbent here – or, if they’re brave enough, whether they support all the handsets the employees wish to use;
d) Decide if the apps should be browser-based, native or hybrid;
e) To control licensing arrangements and manage versions/upgrades.
f) And so on…
And you can even buy a white label enterprise app store, e.g. from App Central.
The enterprise app store is the natural competitor to Apple’s business app store. Thus terms in the Apple App Store will need to be very welcoming to both businesses and developers if it hopes to compete – and this could cause consternation at Apple’s consumer store.
That said, mobiThinking welcomes Apple’s interest in business apps – whether or not it is true that Apple is planning a business app store – as it puts business apps (real ones for business) on the agenda. And this will encourage companies to ask what mobile can really do for their business, instead of trying to guess what novelty consumers might want this week.
If you need to get up to speed on business apps, see this excellent series of videos from the Mobile Enterprise Summit (GigaOM/Appconomy, April 2011). Remarkably, many of these videos have only been viewed 30+ times – surely more people than this are thinking about real implications of advances in smartphones, mobile Web and apps for the business?
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