Enterprise app stores evolve

As mobile app use heats up, distribution methods have to mature

On two recent occasions, I ran into everyday users who hadn't found it at all obvious that they needed the Apple iTunes application to download mobile apps to their shiny new iPads.

If mobile distribution via iTunes is a sticking point for your average consumer that just wants to play Angry Birds, consider the enterprise seeking ways to distribute, manage and secure large volumes of business applications for Apple iOS and other mobile platforms.

ANALYSIS: iPads storm the enterprise

Fortunately, Apple itself has made progress in this area both for volume purchasing and distribution of commercial and third-party custom apps. In addition, enterprise app stores (or storefronts) have become available to enterprises for distributing their own custom apps internally with a specially branded apps catalog. Such capabilities are available from AppCentral and Apperian, as well as from a number of mobile device management (MDM) companies.

Apple is the first mobile device maker to offer a volume-purchasing program (VPP) to enterprises that want to buy commercial mobile apps in bulk, then allow their employees to download them from the App Store. End users do so with redemption codes, a process that can be managed using email, a special enterprise website or via central controls contained in MDM solutions. Going the MDM route can be beneficial, because the MDM companies put security wrappers around the process to make sure that only authorized employees using secure devices can see and install the prepaid apps.

AirWatch, MobileIron and Sybase, for example, are among the MDM vendors that are Apple VPP partners.

Given that much of the competitive edge to mobility comes by custom-developed apps that fit the business, Apple has also initiated a custom B2B program as part of its VPP. Enterprises can securely and privately purchase custom B2B apps for iPhone and iPad; ISVs in the Apple iOS Developer program can create custom B2B apps that their customers who are enrolled in the VPP can buy.

Apps go through the same security vetting as the commercially available applications do.

We are still in the early days of getting our arms completely around mobile application distribution, management and security, but these early developments bode well for the maturation of app stores into an enterprise-caliber distribution channel one day soon.

Learn more about this topic

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