Apps, Apps Everywhere

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor, and Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — August 07, 2013

Apps, apps, everywhere are apps. The famous tagline coined by Apple —“there’s an app for that”—has become part of the vernacular mainly because it’s true.  ABI Research estimates that the value of the mobile app market will be $27 billion by the end of 2013, and the firm has predicted the number of large enterprises adopting enterprise app stores will grow at double-digit rates through 2018.

So far smartphone app revenue is much greater than that of app revenue from tablets according to ABI.  However, as the company stated in a release, “Tablet revenues are quickly catching up and it is projected tablet app revenues will overtake smartphones by 2017. The inclination for tablet users to pay more for apps than their smartphones because of the larger screen size and better user experience for gaming and reading are the primary drivers.”

How Many Apps?
When it comes to business, according to research from AnyPresence, companies are deploying at least one mobile app, with about 75% expect to deploy three or more applications in 2013 and 38% percent will deploy six or more this year.

The report —The State of Enterprise Mobile Readiness 2013—did not distinguish between form factors, but Rich Mendis, CMO & Co-Founder, AnyPresence, does see a slightly higher demand for tablet apps than smartphones.

Respondents also reported plans to deploy 63% more partner/channel apps this year. This includes apps for supply chain and partner management, shipping and distribution, procurement, finance and manufacturing, each of which has their own particular mobile app requirements and functions.

Sales apps, for example, enable channel partners to share opportunity data, so a partner can act on a lead quickly, “while the iron is hot,” while apps that route approval requests to the appropriate parties accelerate the finance process. For companies that sell configurable products, such as electrical equipment, channel partner apps allow the partner to view catalogs and easily customize an order.

There are many reasons driving the apps in the first place, but typically the first priority is to generate more revenue for both the enterprise and partner, Mendis said, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise.

Apple and Android and Who Else?
Not surprisingly, Android and iOS remain the dominant players when it comes to apps. Half of the respondents to the AnyPresence survey actually feel “locked-in” to their development platform.

“When the iPhone and Android gained traction, developers did not know how to create native solutions,” Mendis explained. “Fast forward to 2013 and beyond, the mobility landscape has changed.” Yet enterprises do not want a proprietary system or some up and comer, so developers have to, and want to, learn tools and transferrable skills, sticking with the major players as a result. 

Apple says it has 850,000 iOS apps in total, of which 350,000 are for iPad. ABI Research sees this platform tend continuing, at least when it comes to the consumer side of things.

“iOS continues to lead the way, and the OS is projected to generate over two-thirds of the revenues for smartphone and tablet apps in 2013,” said ABI senior analyst Josh Flood in a release. “Although Google’s Android OS recently surpassed Apple in terms of total app numbers, iOS users continue to prove they’re more willing to depart with their cash. The revenue gap between the two leading OSes looks unlikely to close over the next 18 months.”

Can Microsoft be a contender? With 8.1 expected to change minds, along with its existing position in the enterprise and the company’s reorganization which should poise it for progress in mobile, the tech giant seems to be in a better position now to disrupt, certainly more than BlackBerry who recently dismissed the tablet as a viable form factor all together.

“A ton of companies have invested in Microsoft technology that is difficult to uproot or change,” Mendis noted. This, he believe, will create a pent-up demand for Windows apps, and we will see an uptick, although not immediately but over time. “The question is, will it sustain beyond the initial adoption?” he asked, adding the success or failure of Windows will be driven by consumers.

“Whoever wins the consumer will win the enterprise.”

So, what about BlackBerry? Is that option completely dead? “RIM doesn’t have an Xbox to go after the young audience,” he replied. Plus, a common complaint about the latest BlackBerry 10 platform is its lack of apps —both consumer and enterprise.

User Experience
One thing is certain, while apps for consumers are typically asynchronous, enterprise apps must involve a sequential process or why have it at all. The development process, as a result, involves additional steps, from controlled access to core enterprise systems to particular requirements that each business department may have. Unfortunately, backend integration, with its assumed roles and permissions management, is often underestimated, which winds up being significantly costly to the enterprise.

And then there’s perception on the part of the employee, shaped, rightly or wrongly, through our expectation as consumers, Mendis said. With mobile apps, unlike web apps which are usually updated once or never, there is an "expectation" that functionality will continue to grow, and rapidly.

“If you haven’t thought through the architecture, the experience can be painful when it comes to updating,” he said.

Take a mobile app connecting a smartphone directly to a CRM system. Without a mobile backend service, when business logic or connectivity info needs to be updated, the employee will manually have to do so. Now multiply that process by thousands, and watch the productivity drop. If the enterprise was using a backend service to update, in contrast, the mobile employees would not even notice.

It is important to make changes without impacting the users, Mendis stressed. Affecting productivity levels are costly for the enterprise, and, for companies paying for bandwidth, is even costlier, especially when 25K employees need an update every time the calendar changes. (About one third of respondents currently receive updates at least once a month, while the majority, 82%, update every six months at the minimum.) “These are problems you don’t think about first time you are building the app,” he said.

BYOD the Final Frontier
Another piece of the app puzzle, or course, is BYOD. ABI Research noted that companies are now beginning to address a multitude of app challenges, including those from the use of personal devices, all while enabling an expected  consumer like experience through app solutions. 

“Mobile application management is growing in popularity among enterprises looking to deploy flexible mobile solutions to support bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives,” commented ABI Research senior analyst, Jason McNicol in a release. “The problem is finding a scalable solution to deploy enterprise apps without placing additional burdens on IT departments. Enterprise app stores allow enterprises to expand their mobile application portfolio yet control distribution based on role and mobile policy.”

McNicol believes, “Enterprises supporting BYOD initiatives need to consider Bring-Your-Own-App (BYOA) initiatives as well. Widespread adoption of BYOD has led to an influx of third party apps being used to support business functions (e-mail, calendar, Office docs, document storage etc.). Instead of blacklisting these apps, enterprises are embracing, securing, and deploying third party apps through the enterprise app store. As such, the enterprise app store is a means to support BYOA.”

Related Content:
Scorecard for Mobile App Platform
Developers on Apps
Apple Apps Look to Future

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