Vanessa HoForever, it seems, IT has been in control of app development, but that’s all about to change. Individual developers are gaining a stronger voice, and business apps are poised to become the defining difference.

Since the introduction of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, developers have seen success in marketing and selling their mobile applications to consumers. With the adoption of mobile devices in the enterprise, there’s an equally if not more lucrative opportunity to build mobile apps for businesses. Enterprise IT simply cannot keep up with the ever-growing number of mobile technologies, platforms and devices. They will need the independent mobile developer’s help!

Partnerpedia recently conducted a survey that showed great interest among developers in its online community to offer mobile app solutions to businesses. Over 80% of the 200+ respondents indicated they currently or plan to offer mobile app solutions to business customers. Why the change in focus from consumer to business? Simple: The consumer market is overcrowded and there are higher margins in business apps. Indeed, 28% of respondents expect their mobile business to grow more than 50% in the next three years, with another third indicating a growth of between 25% and 50%.

Android led the way when it comes to targeted mobile platforms at 82.5% of respondents. Apple’s iOS was not far behind with nearly 78%. The jury is still out, but Android’s openness could be the key driver for success in the enterprise. It can make it easier for developers to build and sell enterprise mobile apps.

One challenge developers will face is deciding which operating system to target and whether to build native apps or HTML5 multi-platform apps. There are tools and frameworks out there that allow developers to build apps once but run them on many operating systems, such as Appcelerator, PhoneGap and Netbiscuits. Another challenge is Android itself, as developers are working with various Android versions like Honeycomb or Gingerbread, whereas for iOS, most are developing on the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.

There is no doubt about it: The need for mobile apps in the enterprise is going to drive business application innovation by creating a more competitive application market, mirroring what has taken place in the consumer app market. But here’s the caveat: The quality and reliability of the applications available will be dependent on the strength of the developer community.

Opening up traditional IT to include third-party developers is going to revolutionize the business software market. It will drive innovation in business applications, ultimately increasing employee performance and company performance. Mobile app development for business is the future, and the future is now.

Vanessa Ho is an online community manager with Partnerpedia, a provider of mobile app management and marketplace solutions.