Company App, Platform and Device Preferences

goodtechnologyYesterday I wrote about how mobile is paying off in the enterprise (companies). Today, I came across a new report on App, Platform and
Device Preferences (PDF) from Good Technology that digs deeper .

The report looks into apps and devices used by companies globally. Companies are mainly using office and communication apps such as contacts, calendar, email, IM, document access and the browser is actually the most used app for accessing additional business functionality. The insurance industry is an early leader in custom apps in that it represents over a third of all apps activated that access custom business processes.

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As it happens, I have actually worked on one such (car) insurance app. I think the appeal for companies is that there’s a direct and quickly measurable impact for the (insurance) business. It allows access to new business and new channels in what’s a highly competitive industry. In other businesses, measuring the impact of custom apps can be less measurable and might even cannibalise existing access methods which might have some internal company inertia to ‘keep going’ even though they are out of date and inefficient. Less competitive industries than insurance have less incentive to care. However, with Google reporting upwards of 50% of us are now using mobile in preference to desktops/laptops, the laggards will have to eventually consider access via mobile, even if it is only from a web browser.

Enterprise Mobile is Paying Off

airwatchAirwatch has some new research on the use of mobile in the enterprise, in particular for mid-market companies. It splits the market into progressive and conservative adopters.

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An important insight is that 70% of the progressive adopters are saying the investment is paying off. A large proportion (75%) say mobile is now critical for business.

What does this mean for mobile developers? I continue to believe that ‘enterprise’ development is more important than the more trivial ‘apps for end consumers’ although there’s an overlap between the two. By ‘important’ I mean there are greater opportunities, have longer lasting appeal and tend to be more financially viable. All of the apps I have recently developed are more ‘enterprise’ than they are ‘end user’. Some are internal apps for employees, some are stand-alone hardware-based products while others cross over to end users to allow them to access the business as customers. These kinds of app are not marketing-type apps that are here today, gone tomorrow. They need to be supported and updated over time to support new business features and new devices.

Cross Platform Tools and Security

blackhatasia15If you follow this site you will know I am not a great fan of cross platform tools. They tend to sacrifice performance and ‘look and feel’ for faster development. In cases where you can refine the look and feel, it usually becomes increasingly difficult to get screens with the correct UI idioms because most tools are based on generating html/javascript. Enterprise apps seem to be the most suitable use for cross platform tools as the look and feel of the UI tends to be less important. However, is this true?

I have recently written how anyone using app creating tools based on WebViews or using WebViews in their app needs to be aware of security vulnerabilities. Taking this further, there has been a recent presentation at BlackHat Asia 15 on ‘The nightmare behind the cross platform mobile apps dream‘.

The problem with cross platform is that it provides a uniform environment that offers up a large number of apps that can be hacked in the same way and, as it turns out, can also be more easily hacked. The presentation gives some sobering problems with Cordova, Adobe AIR and Titanium. For example, Adobe AIR’s EncryptedStorage API doesn’t do much and only stores data as Base64 encoded. Titanium’s default https is broken, doesn’t validate the SSL certificate and hence is vulnerable to Man in the Middle (MiTM) attacks.

If you are using cross platform tools then you are passing some responsibility for security to the framework. I am beginning to think platform tools are actually less suitable for Enterprise because that’s where there are usually increased security concerns.

Where Enterprise Mobility is Headed

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Globo have a new infographic that gives some insights into enterprise mobility. 40% of employees now BYOD, double that in 2012. Blackberry is now irrelevant and Windows Mobile has failed to gain much traction in the Enterprise.

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1 in 4 Android phones have software that hasn’t been updated since 2012 that gives companies a potential security issue.

Discover The Enterprise Mobile Opportunities

goodtechnologies.pngGood Technology have a new free Mobile Index Report (pdf) to "track and analyze the impact of mobile apps and platforms". The report concentrates on the use of apps in the enterprise.

Top usecases include document editing, instant messaging, business intelligence and CRM. Enterprise app activations increased 20% quarter over quarter.

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"Android device activations jumped significantly quarter over quarter, increasing five percentage points to 32 percent of total activations, while iOS activations decreased that same amount and recorded 67 percent of total activations."

Financial services, business and professional services and insurance are seeing the greatest uptake with other areas such as public sector, retail, utilities and healthcare seeing low take up. However, I see the lagging industries as areas for opportunity and the leading industries as early adopters where there’s probably already too much competition.

Enterprise Apps World 2014

enterpriseappsworld.pngThere was a recent article on ReadWrite stating that ‘50% Of Developers Focus On Mobile, But They’re Not Writing The Next Flappy Bird‘. Many are instead working on enterprise apps.

Yesterday I was at Enterprise Apps World in London. Exhibitors included complete enterprise solutions, solution enablers and a few developers of custom solutions. Here are the more developer-centric items I found of interest…

  • Shinobicontrols Android and iOS UI controls. Charts, grids, gauges on iOS and charts on Android (more coming soon). Licensed per developer.
  • InstantAPI, currently in early access, creates a server API from popular databases. They also have features in development such as API usage reporting.
  • OneSky language translation takes in popular app file resource formats. Their tools allow you to also submit screenshots so that the (human) translator can see the context of the text to be translated. The service is priced per word translated.
  • Germany-based TestBirds tests apps via crowdtesting according to your specs.
  • CNS Group provides app and mobile device security testing.

An observation I had is that many of the enterprise vendors, especially the larger ones, seemed to have a closed view of what entails ‘enterprise apps’. It’s largely seen as apps for the workforce as opposed to apps for employees, customers, suppliers and partners.

There were also several very thin/minimal services over cloud services and it wasn’t obvious to me why an enterprise might buy from these companies, who might go bust or whatever, when they can easily implement for themselves either in-house or via a 3rd party.

Enterprise Pays

visionmobile.gifThe Visionmobile Developer Economics site has a new post on how building enterprise apps is paying 4x more than consumer apps. This seems to vindicate my previous posts where I mentioned that I saw opportunities in building more enduring apps for business solutions rather than trying to target consumers via free apps, paid apps and freemium with (usually entertainment) apps that usually have a very short shelf life.

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In some cases consumers can still be the users of the apps. It’s just that people paying for them are companies. Companies need their businesses exposed via mobile for the long term and hence the apps are longer term propositions. Apps range from specific, vertical apps such as insurance (quotes) and banking to more generic apps such as account management, catalogues/stores and customer service. These latter, more generic, apps are suitable for white labelling that can be very profitable if designed well. Note, however, that white labelling apps can be implemented many ways and naive solutions can be difficult and expensive to manage.

The Developer Economics post also has a comment where someone asks how to court enterprise clients in that it seems the largest barrier to entry. Those who follow me will already know I advocate forming the company with people who already know the domain and have deep contacts in that industry. Knowing the domain means you are more likely to be solving a real problem, the app is likely to be nearer ‘right first time’ and the contacts help you gain early traction.

Enterprise Mobile App Strategies

forrester.gifThe MobileEnterpriseStrategies blog has a thought provoking post containing notes from a Forrester Research presentation. There are lots of insights but the one that stood out for me was…

"New mobile apps and businesses like My Taxi, Hailo, Uber offer benefits to both customers and service providers (Taxi drivers), not just to the consumer."

Thinking back to my past projects, the enterprise apps with most business traction have tended to be those that consumers AND service providers AND intermediaries all want/need. If any of these parties don’t have the motivation to participate then it tends to be a poorer proposition. A good example of this is MyDrive Solutions car driving telematics app, which I created an Android variant for, for one of their insurance clients. The MyDrive app benefits the consumer because they ultimately get cheaper insurance. It benefits the intermediaries, the car insurance companies (MyDrive’s clients), because they gain extra business from clients they would otherwise have to avoid insuring.

I think the message here for Enterprise is to create apps that all concerned parties (i.e. one or more of end users, suppliers, customers and resellers) will need/want. If one party can do just as well without it then they won’t participate and it might result in a poorer business proposition. For entrepreneurs exploring ideas in the Enterprise space, or indeed any space, they should be thinking of solutions with strong benefits for all parties.