The downloadable mobile app is becoming more than app store fodder. It's the next format for marketing collateral and it will be springing up everywhere. Free of course. By Ian Scales.
Yesterday AT&T announced an offering called WorkBench for iPhone which will provide a way for AT&T's channel partners to offer services for their enterprise customers using the iPhone as the client.
Vodafone is already offering a similar capability, using the same technology, through it's VAS (Vodafone Application Services).
The idea, of course, is to bring the iPhone (and other smartphones) into the business fold by making them business terminals, able to access whatever high-powered corporate applications are hiding behind security firewalls in corporates' back offices. These service can be run through secure web applications hosted in a managed environment. So not only do enterprises get help with pulling together apps for the fast evolving smartphone platforms, but they have route to integrate them with their enterprise mobility solutions as well, together with the right encryption and security levels taken into account.
It's all part of the 'blending' of applications and uses that we're seeing start to take place on sophisticated platforms like the iPhone - no longer is the smartphone seen as either a business or a leisure item, but a personal one that crosses over both domains.
But the 'corporate' software download is only part of the story. Corporates will use this IT capability as a springboard for B to C using apps.
The company behind the Vodafone and AT&T technology, is Antenna Software, and we spoke to Jim Hemmer, its President and CEO .
"We're selling into the enterprise," says Hemmer, "so this not the consumer market side of the app stores where things are either free or retailed for a couple of dollars. But we think that there's a big opportunity to work with our large enterprise customers to help them reach their customers." It's the old B to B to C play.
There may not be a huge fortune to be made by coming up with clever things for download stores, but there is clearly an opportunity to use apps as the conduit to other, better and more remunerative things. This the idea of the downloadable app as the 'start' of a long conversation, not the end-result of a brief transaction, and of course Hemmer is very enthusiastic about this trend.
"In the retails space an app that allows you to get the latest product information - the app may provide a coupon for a discount, or there may be a cross-product discount saying that if you buy these items today we'll give you another 20 per cent off. There are all sorts of opportunities there," he points out.
Antenna, naturally, sees its technology service, via the carriers, as part of the key to unlocking this next big phase in the short history of the app store.
"Take a multinational with a major consumer presence. The corporate could have a large branded app store in the near term which could do two things: for employees it would be a way of saying 'these apps are certified by us and they can be used to talk to the corporate systems'. The next avenue is to reach out to the customer - come to the app store for coupons promotions and so on," he says.
"Large enterprises are really looking hard at this already. It's going to be a huge area. After all, smartphones are the next computing platform," says Hemmer.
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