Both Google Play and Apple's iOS App Store offer options that allow companies to distribute proprietary applications to their employees. Some software vendors, like SAP, offer stores where customers can purchase enterprise apps.
But neither type of store seems geared to the needs of companies that want custom applications but lack the development know-how to produce them. IT services firm CDW is hoping to address this gap in the app market with its new App Marketplace.
Joe Woods, director of Mobility Solutions for CDW, said the company originally intended to create an app store that would be a marketplace for off-the-shelf enterprise applications. But research with customers and partners revealed that companies wanted assistance with a far broader range of issues related to mobility. Based on their input, CDW created its Total Mobility Management program, which according to its website is "a complete approach to acquiring, managing and integrating mobility into your existing infrastructure."
The program encompasses five areas: plan, which includes strategy development; enablement, which offers a portal for procuring and provisioning mobile devices; protect, which focuses on mobile device management and other aspects of mobile security; support, which provides help-desk support to end users and administrative support to IT organizations; and empower, which focuses on developing and distributing mobile apps.
"Not all customers will use all of the components," Woods said, though CDW wanted to facilitate a soup-to-nuts approach to mobility for companies that might need it.
Different Approach to Buying Mobile Apps
Central to the "empower" part of the program is CDW's App Marketplace, which showcases some 60 mobile apps in industry verticals like retail, education and healthcare.
Companies do not purchase apps directly from the marketplace. Instead, Woods said, the marketplace aims to walk them through three steps: educating companies by providing information about mobile app development; highlighting sample apps from vetted developers to demonstrate the kinds of capabilities that are available; and finally, connecting them with their chosen developers.
"If a retailer is looking for certain types of functions in an app, they can go to the marketplace and select the developer that seems to mesh best with what they are trying to do, and then we connect them with that developer," Woods said.
Partners include SAP, Lextech Global Services, ArcTouch and several others. Most of the partners also offer app templates, which contain the core functionality desired by a majority of users and require minimal customization.
"Dozens" of other partners are in the process of being vetted now, Woods said, so CDW anticipates rapid expansion of the App Marketplace. In addition to development services, new partners will bring in development platforms and toolkits for companies that want to create their own apps but are interested in leveraging pre-built APIs and other tools.
CDW also plans to offer more assessment/planning tools to help companies with areas that fall outside the realm of pure application development, such as defining business cases for mobility and identifying relevant security issues.
Woods said the store can accommodate IT organizations leading mobility initiatives, lines-of-business working with IT and lines-of-business working without IT's assistance. He acknowledged the latter situation can "obviously create complications." But, he said, "The mobile revolution is creating more freedom for line-of-business organizations to address their own needs without having to worry about getting on IT's priority list."
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.