Mobile Apps Are Moving Into The Enterprise

Enterprise Mobile Apps

Photo: Appcelerator

The enterprise is shaping up to be a huge market for mobile apps.Appcelerator’s second quarterly developer interest survey found better than 65 per cent movement towards enterprise apps.

Recently, we spoke with Michael King, Director of Enterprise Strategy at Appcelerator. Appcelerator’s quarterly survey is filled out by over 3,600 developers and, as such, it has a pretty robust view of developer sentiment.

Enterprise apps are a broad category. Outbound apps are used by companies to communicate with their companies. Inbound apps are used internally by a company’s employees. King told us that the “trend is shifting back towards enterprise apps” and “enterprises are waking up to the power of the mobile app.” 

Although they are distributed internally, inbound apps can be native (built specifically for a mobile platform like iOS or Android, rather than in HTML5). They can be distributed through a third-party multi-platform enterprise app store, like AppCentral. Alternatively, platform vendors are developing ways for companies to distribute proprietary apps internally (here’s the iOS program). King told us that 45 per cent of developers are going to move into enterprise app stores, many of them internal.

Apple is gaining the advantage in the mobile enterprise market, a remarkable turnaround five years after the introduction of iOS. Appcelerator found that 53 per cent of developers thought iOS would win the enterprise in the long run, up 9 percentage points from Q3 2011, when it was tied with Android.

King attributes Apple’s enterprise gains to several factors:

  • The iPad accounts for the vast majority of tablet shipments (especially when you exclude 7 inch tablets that are primarily media consumption devices).
  • The repeated occurrence of Android malware. Security is a major concern for enterprises and the closed environment of iOS is considered safer. Apple has also been working with third party vendors of security software to improve distribution. In addition to BYOD, King said many employees now practice BYOA (bring your own app), so safe distribution is hugely important.
  • Enterprises are challenged by Android fragmentation.

King says that “developers look at [Android] as a consumer opportunity.” For Android developers, 74 per cent cited growth of installed base and 55 per cent more affordable devices as the platform’s top appeals. For those not developing on Android, 94 per cent cited fragmentation. 

Despite Google’s attempts to fix the problem with the Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean software updates, this “has not been reflected in the client-side devices.” Android’s platform distribution is largely unchanged, and Appcelerator doesn’t “see either Jelly Bean or Ice Cream Sandwich stopping fragmentation.”

Android’s stumbles, along with RIM’s collapse, have opened up an opportunity for Microsoft, the dominant player in many other parts of enterprise computing. So far, developers are “cautiously optimistic” about Microsoft’s chances — 40 per cent expressed interest in Metro/UI and 33 per cent in Windows 8 tablets. Interest in Windows 7 plummeted, but that shouldn’t be surprising after Microsoft announced these phones wouldn’t be eligible for an upgrade.      

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • The enterprise is a huge new market for app developers, but with an added layer of complexity because of the enterprise’s unique security and distribution needs.
  • Apple is poised to make huge gains in the mobile enterprise market as a result of its BYOD popularity, as well as its focus on safe distribution.
  • Android is still seen as a consumer play, which, along with the fall of RIM, has opened up an opportunity for Microsoft to make a renewed run at the mobile enterprise market.

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