Device makers to launch business app stores, firm says

With the Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom and BlackBerry PlayBook set to invade Canadian enterprises within a few weeks, one U.S.-based community developer says tablet and smart phone vendors will soon start building out their own “business” focused app stores to address growing needs in the enterprise market.

Partnerpedia, which operates offices out of Morgan Hill, Calif. and Vancouver, said corporate IT buyers will soon experience a “wild wild west” when it comes to mobile app deployment.

Sam Liu, vice-president of marketing at Partnerpedia, said that while Apple’s App Store, Android Market, and the recently launched Amazon Android App Store are great for consumers, they do not meet the needs of a large enterprise. And because most IT departments do not have mobile development expertise in-house, he said, enterprises are reliant on third-party sources to build business-ready tablet and smart phone apps.

The company recently launched a software-as-a-service platform to help mobile device vendors develop their own branded enterprise app stores and also works with enterprise IT shops to plan out internal app stores.

Earlier this week, software industry research firm Evans Data Corp. said between 35 and 40 per cent of developers now engage in mobile development. The firm’s most recent data also suggest that 73 per cent of developers plan to extend enterprise apps to mobile devices within the next six months.

While Liu said more enterprise software developers will start to pick up the slack and extend enterprise apps to mobile devices, the problem will also need to be addressed by the tablet and smart phone makers themselves.

The “default model” for device manufacturers like Motorola, Panasonic, and Cisco is to build out an Android-based tablet and send their customers to a consumer-focused Google or Amazon app store, he said.

“But enterprise manufacturers aren’t seeing that strategy being enough to support their brand (and enterprise customers),” Liu added.

Creating their own “business-focused” stores will enable vendors to sell specialized enterprise apps that are optimized for the specific devices they sell. This way, Liu said, device makers can actually sell apps that take advantage of the specialized features they offer in their tablets and smart phones.

The theme was echoed recently by Pat O’Day, co-founder and CTO of Indianapolis, Ind.-based managed IT services provider BlueLock, who predicted that 2011 will be the year the enterprise app store truly makes its mark on enterprise IT procurement.

“So, the idea (is) that a business unit manager says ‘I need a SharePoint environment’ and they can deploy that as quickly as you can get Angry Birds on your iPhone,” O’Day said.

Liu said the types of products on an enterprise app store offered by a handset maker might also include packages with other hardware products and services.

– With files from Kathleen Lau

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