Apple’s iPhone didn’t just revolutionize smartphones; it also introduced the first concrete and successful app store in the world. Four years later, app stores aren’t just for consumers anymore. A number of companies are pushing their own variation on the app store theme in order to bring enterprises onboard with this simpler way to distribute software.
App stores in the last year have begun to creep off of phones and onto desktops. With Apple’s newer Mac Store and Intel’s AppUp app store, a large variety of software can be found for uses that have traditionally been performed by boxed software. But with the app store model comes the ease of automatic updates, simple installations and quicker discovery by users, all benefits that are appealing to the enterprise.
To that end, MobileIron offers private enterprise app stores that can be hosted from within a company in order to disseminate applications to employees.
Sean Ginevan, solutions architect for the MobileIron product team, said that, for enterprises, app stores are about a lot more than just software. “One of the things important in highly vertical markets is the identity of the users,” he said.
“In financial services, we have one customer whose corporate board is going to use an app to share data about the outlook of the company: its financial health and so forth. The average employee shouldn’t get that data, so they’re making sure only the right user can get it.
“Once you’ve figured out who it is, the question becomes, ‘What is going on with that device?’ Is that going to meet the minimum security criteria? If a pharmaceutical company said, ‘We’re going to gather clinical trial data with an app,’ that puts them under all sorts of regulatory concerns from the FDA.”
And thus, as is usually the case inside enterprises, controls over the end users is of paramount importance. MobileIron’s private app store offers user management controls to limit the access of some users while expanding the access of others. These controls extend from simple user identity to tracking the type of device used and verifying it against a set of security standards.
This is precisely why companies want their own app stores, said Ginevan. “What we find from customers is that they don’t necessarily want to host their business apps on the Amazon Market, or Google Market, or the Apple App Store, and it’s because of how those apps will be used,” he said.
Robin Bordoli, vice president of Jive Software’s Apps Market, said that the enterprises he talks to have two main goals, one of which is the aforementioned control over user access. But the second, perhaps more important goal, he said, is the penetration of enterprise applications.
Bordoli said that enterprises are trying to improve “the availability and adoption of business apps. When IT build their own apps, they get a 70% uptake failure rate. Employees are increasingly going outside the enterprise to find apps that work. Seventy percent of employees use unsanctioned cloud apps. They’re having to deal with that.”
Thus, Jive Software offers a public enterprise app store, which can be controlled and managed. But it includes numerous popular Web-based business applications that can be approved or denied by enterprise application wranglers.
Once approved, these Web apps can be used the same way as services like Salesforce.com, but because of the app-store model, individual application access can be purchased in a central location, rather than forcing enterprises to approve purchase orders across a dozen different SaaS providers.
At the end of the day, said Bordoli, the move toward enterprise app stores is about one major trend: “What is happening here is the gauntlet is being thrown down to centralized IT. They defined what was on your desktop, and what you could or could not use.
“That genie is out of the bottle. I think you’re going to see a ton of experimentation. I think you’re going to see a backlash against the standalone, freemium model. You’ll see a lot of experimentation from enterprises to understand how they adopt the cloud apps with a level of governance and control they’re comfortable with.”