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With the growing reliance of companies on mobile devices and apps, enterprise app stores – stores accessible only to employees of an organization – are on the rise. Similar to how companies make use of both public websites and private intranets, we’re going to start seeing companies have public apps for their customers, as well as a private collection of apps just for their employees.
In a way, BlackBerry Enterprise Server was a variant of the original private app store. This technology connected mobile devices with desktop software (e.g., calendars, messaging clients) and allowed employers to control what software was available on enterprise devices. While that was a standard in its time, enterprise app stores have taken on a new form and function.
Bloomberg provides an excellent example of a private enterprise app store. Their Enterprise App Portal makes previously scarce information accessible by any subscriber to the app. According to paidContent, it will cost around $20,000 annually to get access to this information.
In speaking with clients, I have discovered that the demand for enterprise app stores extends across various sectors. For example, one of our clients in the home furnace market wanted to provide a means of distributing apps which would enable field technicians on service calls at customers’ homes to diagnose problems more easily.
Perhaps one of the most highlighted internal app stores is the General Electric internal mobile app store. As of mid-2012, according to one article, GE apps have been downloaded by employees over 350,000 times.
Another article by Gartner predicts that by 2017, 25% percent of enterprises will have an enterprise app store for managing corporate approved apps on desktop and mobile devices.
Here are some benefits to building an enterprise app store:
There may be some scenarios where apps hold confidential information that needs to be kept within the organization. In this case, it would be best to keep these apps from the public. An enterprise app store offers privacy from public eyes and makes the information-rich apps available only to the people who need to know about it.
2. No Restrictions
Where Apple’s stringent restrictions keep many features from reaching the market, the enterprise app store provides an alternative where the sky is the limit. It also means developers can distribute new builds and updates much more quickly.
3. Consolidated Paid Apps
Instead of having employees expense paid apps every time they purchase one, companies can simply buy a license from a manufacturer and distribute the apps through the enterprise app store. This clears up a bunch of headaches in terms of organization. It also presents an opportunity to track usage and feedback much more clearly, to see if employees are satisfied with the apps or not.
4. Encourages and Capitalizes on BYOD
As the BYOD movement reaches the early majority, employees will no longer require separate devices for work and personal use. Instead, perhaps as BB10 is indicating, there can be different profiles for different uses (e.g., separate work and personal profiles). The internal app store, if it is cross platform, would enable flexibility in whichever device an employee decides to choose.
Whenever a new build of an app is released, instead of having the user go into the App Store or Google Play to install the update, companies can just send out a push notification with a direct link that updates apps with one push of a button.
Where there are a ton of apps with viruses and spyware in Google Play, an internal app store would be free of any harmful programs. Every app would be carefully curated, and even if a compromised app did get through, the power of the crowd of employees means the app store would be able to get updated much more quickly.
Along with BlackBerry, other major smartphone manufacturers are also taking notice of the proliferation of mobile devices in enterprise and are proactively working to service this demand. For example, Samsung is now building Android devices for enterprise via the Samsung For Enterprise Galaxy at Work solution.
Enterprise app stores are going to pop up with an increasing frequency; if your company relies on the spread of information or communication, consider setting up an app store or web portal to house your company’s apps.