Apple has changed the way consumers expect to get access to applications, especially mobile applications, with the creation of its iOS App Store and then the Mac App Store. There are several advantages for the use of app stores that might outweigh its most apparent disadvantage: the possibility of creating walled gardens which allow customers to only purchase and update their applications via the app store. This also maximizes the possibility of censorship, as has been the case for various developers that tried to sell applications that were questionably suspended or rejected by Apple. However, if implemented well, and provided the right access rights to developers and consumers, the concept of an app store has several advantages, of which I’ll highlight a few:
- Centralized Application Access: Let’s face it, people like comfort. They like to be able to find the things they want (in this case mobile and/or desktop applications) easily and quickly. The app store becomes then a one stop shop for customer needs. Take this to an individual company’s level and you have a central location for application delivery that you can point customers to and have them find just the application they need from your portfolio.
- Centralized Updates: With centralized access comes “push” updates. The goal here is also to make it easy and quick for customers to have the latest version of a company’s applications (and/or developer applications that work with a company’s services or devices). This also ensure compatibility amongst customers’ applications and server side services, as well as compatibility between different customers’ applications in case of apps using for collaboration. The concept of an app store ensures everyone has access to the latest version of your content anytime.
- Centralized Security Control: Since the enterprise has at least some control over the applications and other content that is distributed through its app store, it can more safely guard the security, policies, and access to apps and content. Isn’t this just what most companies complain about when users ask them “why can’t we use this or that device at work?”
Notice that I purposely repeat the word “centralized” as it’s key to the concept of app stores, and denotes its main advantage over a discentralized distribution of applications.
SalesForce, for instance, has its own application marketplace called AppExchange where users can access cloud business applications centrally. One interesting thing about SalesForce’s app store is that it allows third party developers to publish applications there and make them available to existing SalesForce customers. Also, it allows customers to post a custom app development request and Force.com developers can access the job posting on the AppExchange Developer Marketplace, the customer can choose the developer that best fits the requirements for the job based on rating and skills. Of course, the customer will also rate the developer after the work is done as well, so the community can make sure they only choose the best developers, and so developers drive for best results every time.
Cisco’s AppHQ Cius
Cisco created its own app store called AppHQ for their business-oriented Android App, the Cius. AppHQ lets companies create their own customized app stores with differentiated licensing and distribution control of content and apps as well as a custom storefront. From their AppHQ information page, once can find the following highlights:
- Easy Application Discovery and Search
- Enterprise Wide Application Purchase and Distribution
- Application Bulk Purchases
- License Management
- User and Group Management
- Application Evaluation, and Life Cycle Management
- Private Branding and Customization
- Internal Application Hosting Mechanism
- Application Usage and Reporting
- Rating and Reviews Management
Some examples of custom app stores and related services
If you’re interested in starting your own company’s custom app store, here are some services that could be worth investigating further:
As a side note, Apple offers app volume purchasing for companies that want to purchase and distribute applications for their employees via they B2B service.
If you’re interested in finding out more about custom app stores, their advantages and disadvantages, and use cases, start by reading “Private app stores: does your company need its own?” by Jon Brodkin (2011) on Ars Technica.
Does your company or institution need its own app store for your (and third party developer) apps and contents such as applications and ebooks?