This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of InfoTECH SPOTLIGHT
The future of communications lies in applications and services. If you don’t believe it yet, consider the sheer number of apps available (and the number of apps that have been downloaded) at Apple’s (News - Alert) App Store and the Android Market. Whether you are an iPhone user or have one of the latest Android-based devices in hand, one thing is certain: you have more than likely taken advantage of the exhausting list of apps available at Apple’s App Store or the Android Market. For that matter, even BlackBerry (News - Alert) users have a selection of useful apps available.
“More and more, consumers want apps and sophisticated features that come with their smartphones,” noted Lory Silvia, executive vice president of marketing at Redbend Software.
But aside from the thousands of personal apps available, there are countless business apps being developed in concert with the adoption of unified communications platforms and, of course, the devices that leverage the mobility features of UC solutions.
The problem, for IT departments, though, becomes managing these enterprise applications effectively in terms of distribution, management, and security. As the number of mobile devices increases, the strain on IT managers increases, as they are forced to find ways to manage more devices, a task only complicated by the trend toward allowing users to bring their personal mobile devices in the enterprise.
According to Sylvia, mobile virtualization is one way to simply mobile management in the business environment. By enabling separate, secure software environments on devices, one managed my the mobile operator and the other by the IT manager, businesses are able to ensure security of their business applications and networks.
“With mobile virtualization, you are absolutely sure there is a distinct separation,” she says. “You swipe one way and you have your business mobile experience; swipe the other way and you enter your personal experience.”
While MV is a great way to ensure security in the mobile enterprise environment, the other issue – and perhaps the more critical in terms of time management for IT groups, is the applications the end users want and need in order to be productive. With countless business apps already available, and with more being developed each week, many of which are tied to back-end business systems, IT managers are faced with having to spend an increasing amount of time managing these applications on various devices.
A logical solution, according to Sam Liu, vice president of marketing at Partnerpedia, is the enterprise app store. The idea, leveraging an already intimately familiar process, thanks to Apple and Google (News - Alert), as well as the explosion of cloud computing, the idea is to provide a source for IT managers to purchase and license applications for the business environment, maintaining control over distribution and management from a centralized location.
“Mobile device management providers look at it from a device perspective, where they need to control individual devices,” explains Liu. “That’s hard to do with personal devices.”
Instead, Partnerpedia’s enterprise app store approach allows management from the application perspective, ensuring the same user experience while adhering to corporate policies and procedures and without requiring configuration and management on each individual device.
Users can access and install applications from their mobile devices or a Web browser, including trial versions, and can provide ratings and reviews on individual apps, creating a valuable feedback mechanism for IT managers, in addition to significant process efficiencies.
As tablets and smartphones continue to proliferate the business landscape – more and more businesses are discovering use cases for tablets and cloud computing – Liu believes this year will be the testing ground for enterprise app stores.
“Those companies that are experimenting with tablets and the cloud say they can see the need and the benefit for enterprise app store,” according to Liu.
Indeed, most IT managers are likely to agree that they are spending too much time deploying and managing applications. The idea of simplifying and process, while increasing the availability of business applications is sure to be a welcome development, especially considering the end user process is one with which every smartphone and tablet user already uses regularly.