GE gets an early app store start
General Electric launched its own corporate app store for employees in 2009, calling it GE AppCentral, although it is not connected to the vendor of the same name. Employees have downloaded applications more than 350,000 times, including productivity and service-oriented software. Users can access the store on their mobile phone or via the Web and have an application emailed to their smartphone, says Dayan Anandappa, CIO for digital media at GE. Mobilization is strategic to GE, he says, which is why it was an early adopter of the corporate app store. Users download applications based on specific access rights.
Another issue is recognizing the user interface has to be flexible. "When you're designing this, you have to be cognizant of the fact that people are going to be accessing through their mobile device with various form factors," Anandappa says. Thus, the right interfaces need to be provided, he says.
App store cloud services emerging
App47 launched its cloud-based service a year ago. The company also has an on-premise solution, geared mostly toward the federal government, which is not yet comfortable with using the cloud, CEO Schroeder says.
Likewise, AppCentral offers both SaaS and on-premise solutions. But similar to App47's experience, 85 to 90 percent of customers opt for the cloud version. "More and more companies are just figuring out the convenience and instant availability of cloud solutions just make a lot of sense," says products VP Dasher.
BYOD a driving force, but not required
The BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon, in which employees want to use the device of their choosing for both personal and business use, is definitely played a role in the emergence of corporate app stores.
Chris Hazelton, an analyst at 451 Research, says that corporate app stores are "basically another enabler of BYOD," where applications and data become more critical as opposed to specific devices, he says.
Of course, you don't have to support BYOD to benefit from using a corporate app store. Case in point: GE, which supports only GE-provided devices, including mainly iOS and RIM's BlackBerry, as well as some Android and Windows Mobile devices. The company is looking at BYOD options, digital media CIO Anandappa notes.
It is clear, though, that regardless of whether a company is issuing its own devices or letting users choose, the trend of companies setting up their own mobile app stores is one that is likely to skyrocket in growth. Enterprise IT has quickly moved to the world of smartphones and tablets, and app stores are going to serve as a strategic management tool.
This story, "Open for business: It's the year of the corporate app store," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology and consumerization of IT at InfoWorld.com. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.