Experts predict that by the end of 2013, the number of mobile apps downloads will reach 56 billion and the worldwide online app market will grow from approximately $6.8 billion in 2010 to $25 billion by 2013 (ABI Research). These figures quantify the fact that smartphone users are understanding the benefits of applications and many are making use of them for business and leisure. Over time, the demand for niche and targeted applications will surface creating applications that work across platforms in a single enterprise.
With organisations opening themselves to the trend of BYOD, a greater number of mobile users are seeking enterprise applications on their phones. This provides the ability to resume tasks in normalcy when they are away from their workplaces or on the move. It is in these cases that enterprise applications across platforms allow significant levels of collaboration along with mobility. According to Gartner research, 25% of enterprises will have their own app stores by 2017.
An enterprise application is expected to be reliable, perform well while providing an intuitive and efficient user interface. It can be deployed across multiple platforms and inter-operate with many other applications. Its purpose is to meet specific business requirements. It encodes business policies, processes, rules and entities developed in a business organisation and are deployed in a manner responsive to business needs.
Enterprise apps are now seen as being extremely effective in increasing productivity, reducing paperwork, and increasing revenue in ways other devices simply cannot. In fact, the comprehensive offerings have allowed frequent business travelers to do away with lugging their laptops, mobile phones, PDAs and MP3 players every time they travel.
This explosion of the mobile Web has stirred several conversations about the best approach for developing applications that give consumers what they have come to expect; typically being access to whatever form of content they want, whenever and wherever they want it; and on any device that they are carrying. Thus, developers these days are also excited by the prospect of application development using technologies that work best across all platforms. Cross-development mobile frameworks provide good platforms for developing apps that cuts across operating systems.
But developing cross platform apps is not easy. The greatest challenge is that developers have to keep in mind the different system configurations and different screen resolutions across devices. The other problem is the difference in development tools that the developers have to work with. All these hurdles increase the cost and time needed to develop apps for a particular platform. These are also the reasons why you see apps being launched at different times on various platforms.
One of the biggest benefits of having the same flavour of an app across platforms is a wider reach. It results in uniformity as well as a greater brand presence for their app. More platforms also indirectly mean greater options of monetising their offering. For enterprises, it means that more employees will be able to benefit from the app.
On the other hand, enterprise applications are designed to integrate with other applications that are used within an organisation which are deployed across a variety of networks, while following strict guidelines for security and administration management. Achieving these stringent requirement across platforms adds another layer of complexity for developers.
It is critical for the developer to be cognisant of the fact that different devices and their OS mean different things to the consumer and hence to address these aspects in the various versions of the application. For example, an application on BlackBerry must ensure BBM integration to make the app usage seamless to the user as well as to drive viral marketing. Similarly the fact that BlackBerry platform offers better bandwidth and battery usage via encryption etc. means that the savvy developer would leverage these APIs while same is not available on other platforms.
Many organisations in India have already developed mobile applications to empower their workforce. Max Healthcare, for instance, has rolled out a unique solution to help its doctors provide expertise, with just one click on their BlackBerry phones. Developed by Gurgaon-based MphRx, the cloud-based solution MphRx Connect securely connects an archive of radiology images, lab reports and other patient information with smartphones and laptops that clinicians can access wherever they are through BlackBerry smartphones.
The efficacy of enterprise apps is indisputable. The business benefits for making them available across platforms in this era of BYOD are unparalleled. They give enterprises final control over what employees are using while more fully enfranchising their needs and desires. They increase security by weeding out dangerous apps and create more of a unified software front across all computing devices.
The writer is director, business development and Alliances, BlackBerry India