While the consumer mobile app market continues to grow by leaps and bounds, enterprise mobile apps lag behind their consumer counterparts. VisionMobile projects that these markets will double in size in the next few years, reaching $58 billion by 2016–and that’s just in North America.
These numbers however, refer mainly to the non-business world. Apps are pretty ubiquitous in our personal lives, as we play games, check our bank balances, and control our home alarm systems through apps on our smartphones and tablets. In the business world, however, adoption rates are notoriously slow. It’s not surprising, since enterprise companies have longer processes to spend their money. Or adopt new technologies.
Enterprises dipped their toes in the mobile world through mobile devices like iPhones and tablets for executives. As they’ve become more comfortable with the notion of efficiency, optimization, and productivity for their employees, they’ve expanded their enterprise mobile apps view. Apps to handle CRM, accounting, and IT started popping up in the enterprise environment. The number of mobile apps that they’re looking at and purchasing is increasing every year, as their comfort level with the idea of mobile increases.
Surprisingly, it’s not just the traditionally forward-thinking industries that are going mobile–industries like healthcare, banking, government, and insurance are just a few that are becoming increasingly mobile. They’re all improving their infrastructure and developer processes to align themselves to the next phase of mobile innovation. They’re getting ready, are you?
Whether you’re already producing mobile apps for the enterprise market, or are considering jumping into it now, we’ve noticed a number of trends in the enterprise app development world that we’d like to share.
Trend – Mobile devices are more powerful than ever
Mobile device chip producers are creating processors that are better able to handle the high-power tasks we do on them, like streaming video, working in the cloud and essentially acting like mini-computers for us. For example:
- Qualcom’s Snapdragon 800 supports Ultra HD video resolution, cameras up to 55 megapixels, and has a top processing speed of 2.3 GHz.
- Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa has two cores (a 1.2 and a 1.8) that work in concert to decrease overall power consumption without degrading your performance experience.
- Apple’s A7 is the world’s first 64-bit processor for mobile use and has twice the graphics speed as it’s A6 predecessor.
This means that your apps can use more of the mobile device than ever. For example, accessing the camera, microphone, GPS, or gyroscope, and displaying rich UIs and graphics. Your app can also run offline and on multiple mobile platforms (iOS, Android, or Windows) without much difficulty.
Trend – There’s a mobile app dev option for everyone
These three major development options let mobile app producers create products in a variety of methods. Depending on your situation, there’s a method for you.
Native applications are apps developed for a specific mobile operating system with the O/S-specific programming language and software development kit (SDK). For example, iOS apps are developed in Xcode and objective C, while Android apps are developed with Java. These apps are downloaded to the user’s mobile device and accessed separately from other functions on the device.
Mobile Web applications are essentially Internet-enabled apps that are accessed via the mobile device’s web browser. Developers create apps that use the powerful capabilities of the device’s web browser to display the app, and users don’t have to download anything.
Hybrid applications are apps that combine native development with web technology. Developers combine web development methodologies and the native app APIs to create an app that’s distributed through the native app stores.
Trend – Incorporate security into your mobile app development
According to new data from F-Secure, the majority of all malware threats were created for Android mobile devices, but that’s not to say that iOS or Windows were immune either. F-Secure found that 91% of these threats were malware, with most of those being Trojans that silently sent SMS messages to premium-rate numbers or subscription services. Others downloaded and installed unsolicited files or apps onto the mobile device, while others silently tracked the device’s GPS location without the user’s knowledge.
Security is one of the main reasons that enterprises have been reticent to use mobile apps, so ensuring that your mobile app is secure is key. Remember, enterprises guard their business information through NDAs and other legal entities, so help them guard their intellectual property with the right levels of security.
Trend – Start using new development processes
Along with the technical options you have while producing your enterprise business mobile app, there also some development process options you should incorporate.
- Agile software development processes can help you be collaborative and flexible, and protects your app from adopting the “wrong” technology, and lets you pivot quickly and efficiently.
- Incorporate security into your development lifecycle. Determine how to embed security into all layers of your app, as you develop it, not after you’re done.
- Use automated testing methods and tools to root out all the bugs in your app. Automated tools let you test across numerous variables, situations, mobile devices, and platforms.
Native App Dev Process
The native app dev process includes the obvious things like writing the source code, compiling it, bundling it with the appropriate resource files, as well as the OS-specific APIs that the app needs to function, like access to the device’s data storage, GPS information, camera, etc. It also includes tasks like following the process of the appropriate app store to have your app distributed. The approval process for each store can be lengthy and time consuming, so be sure to add this to your overall process.
Mobile Web App Dev Process
Development can be handled by more generalist staff, which gives you a potentially larger employment pool from which to draw.
Hybrid App Dev Process
To use this hybrid app dev process, you’ll need the help of a bridge technology such as PhoneGap. PhoneGap lets you take an existing code base and deploy to multiple mobile platforms, while giving you access to the OS-specific APIs and therefore the device’s functions.
Trend – Tablets are becoming the business device of choice
According to the Siemer SaaS Report, the use of tablets in enterprise planning will grow by nearly 50% annually. The amount of bandwidth that tablets will use at the enterprise level will also grow annually, accounting for nearly 20% of all mobile bandwidth use by 2020.
On a consumer tablet level, Android has overtaken iOS, powering over 62% of the tablet market. At the enterprise level however, Android has an anemic 8.4% of tablet activations. It’s tough competing with the Apple juggernaut, however when you combine the fact that users tend to consolidate their mobile phone and tablet devices to the same operating system with a loosening of enterprise BYOD restrictions, you’ll see a corresponding increase in the number of enterprise Android users. (Note: Current numbers are a bit difficult to compare, as Apple numbers count only smartphones, while Android ones include both smartphones and tablets.)
Producing mobile apps across all of these platforms is going to be challenging for app producers, as you need to have developers with the right kind of skills for those platforms. Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need.
|Languages||Objective C||Java||Java||.NET, C#|
|Tools||Xcode||Android SDK||BB Java Eclipse Plug-in||Visual Studio, Windows SDK|
|App Store||Apple App Store||Google Play App Store, Amazon Appstore, GetJar||BlackBerry App World||Windows Phone Market|
Trend – Generating income with enterprise business apps
Just like enterprise companies need to shift their software purchasing policies, app developers need to rethink the way they make money off their apps. Up to now, they’ve mainly done it through in-app purchases, however they may be leaving a lot of money on the table this way–well over $20 billion in the last two years,according to VisionMobile. Custom apps generate 65% of app producer revenues right now, so increasing their reach into better licensing deals and subscription services are other ways to increase this.
The free business app model
Free consumer apps often generate income through in-app purchases, so how can enterprise business apps generate it? Simple, with a subscription service available outside the app store. Enterprises can download the app for free, but to fully use it, they will need a subscription to access all of the data the app can display and process. This is an effective way to target prospects and convert them, as employee users are the largest downloaders of apps, and are becoming freer to do so.
The white label app store model
Instead of releasing an enterprise business app to Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, tech suppliers are starting to realize the value of having their own white label app store. Gartner estimates that by the end of this year, 60% of IT organizations will have deployed private app stores.
These customized app stores will let enterprise businesses manage and deliver apps for computers, smartphones, and tablets. Current providers include:
- Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for business
- HP's recently launched – HP Access Catalog
Learn more about: Enterprise Application Support
Trend – Explore vertical marketplaces
We’re already seeing this in the healthcare market, as mobile apps are being created for everything from medical reference books to billing to tele-conference with doctors. These markets are looking to improve their business processes and speed up efficiencies in their work environments. Apps like drchrono, and advisory committees like SMART (Substitutable Medical Apps and Reusable Technology) are popping up to handle this need.
Expanding your existing customer base
Many companies won’t even need to go outside of their company to expand their app customer base. Enterprise companies like CDW and Accenture are becoming mobile app producers themselves. Just do a quick search for “enterprise business app development” and you’ll see how many of the big players are getting involved– everyone from CDW, to Accenture (through their alliance with Crittercism), and Microsoft’s Windows 8 Metro-Style apps are creating their own enterprise business apps.
The main reason these companies are jumping into the enterprise business app world is because enterprise purchasing policies haven’t yet reached the Web 2.0 era, and so in order to expand their customer base, they’re conforming to the existing policies. The smaller and intermediate players are handling those companies that are more forward-looking, however there’s still a need to handle the slower enterprise behemoths.
The mobile landscape is changing rapidly
Changes are happening so rapidly, and in so many areas of the mobile market that it’s hard to keep up. We’ve highlighted a few of the trends we’re seeing, however we’d love to hear from you too. What mobile app dev trends are you noticing in your market? Have you started working on your own enterprise business app? How’s it going? Hit up the comments and let us know.
Read the blog: Get in the Mobile App Game with Oracle ADF