An App Store for the Enterprise?
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Click on the graphic for a larger view. Source: Ondeego
There is no question Apple's wildly successful App Store has consumer appeal, but IT acceptance is another matter. The App Store and other online smartphone storefronts are designed mainly for consumers to download free and paid applications ranging from entertainment to education and productivity.
Enter Ondeego, which says it's come up with an enterprise-friendly App Store alternative. The company, a developer of mobile business applications, is announcing a beta of its cloud-based AppCentral Thursday at the GigaOm Mobilize conference in San Francisco.
Ondeego CEO Ken Singer said the idea of AppCentral grew out of conversations with customers. "When we talked to them about mobile applications, everyone said they had to talk to the IT department first for approval and IT usually put the brakes on or raised issues like hidden costs," Singer told InternetNews.com.
Initially for Java-enabled handsets, including the BlackBerry line, Nokia handsets and many Windows Mobile devices, AppCentral is designed to give employees ready access to mobile applications that meet with both manager's and IT's approval. He said support for Android and the iPhone is likely to come next year.
Singer said a key point of differentiation he thinks will appeal to IT is a securitization layer Ondeego adds to apps in its AppCentral store.
"IT managers have raised a lot of concerns about any applications that need to go on their network and other issues like, what happens if the employee leaves the company with the phone or its stolen? Also, IT doesn't want to have to manage a whole new set of applications or technology or new support work," he said.
A layer of security for IT
Singer says Ondeego offers a layer of security software that can be added to any application in AppCentral as part of the upload process. These protected apps are shown with a little icon of a security lock next to them.
What the security layer does is give IT the ability to remotely deactivate any account, denying access to the mobile apps. Or an employee who simply lost or misplaced a phone can have IT use an AppCentral feature to lock the data so it can't be accessed by unauthorized users.
"We think it's a unique feature and we filed a patent on it," says Singer. "We're hoping it's going to provide incentive to developers to go after more enterprise customers because now they can show an end-of-life plan for their applications."
Some applications, like a mapping apps, might have blanket approval. Others might require both a manager's and IT department's approval and Singer says AppCentral is designed to speedily facilitate such requests.
Ondeego hopes to have about a hundred applications available during the beta period over the next few months. One launch partner, Widality, already distributes apps via the BlackBerry App World store, and is solidly on board.
"As the provider of a sophisticated mobile service for business users, AppCentral will enable us to reach an untapped market for mobile applications: the enterprise," said Terry Hughes, Widality's president and CMO in a statement. "At last, corporations can deploy and manage mobile applications like ours thanks to AppCentral's securitization technology."
Ondeego joins the pack of other app store contenders who have a long, long way to go to try and catch Apple which just announced there are over 75,000 applications in the App Store.
That said, Singer, says the iPhone is what created the opportunity for AppCentral.
"It used to be companies might be mostly all Blackberry or Windows Mobile," he said. "Apple changed all that and the mobile world's become very fragmented. That's why we think you need a universal platform like ours."