Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Case for App Stores

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 AppExchange

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?

iBooks Author for Mac

Apple changes the publishing business once again. Sure there are other formats and authoring tools which are supported in iBooks, but this is different: an application that fits tightly in the Apple ecosystem, and as is normally the case with Apple products, simple.

Apple unveiled this new tool in their Apple Education event in NYC. Here are some highlights and features:

Integration with other Apple products and workflow

Template gallery

Drag-and-drop editing

Embedding and customization of elements such as galleries

Support for JavaScript

Support for HTML5

iPad simulator/preview

Accessibility support

Support for widgets

Apple says on their website:

Available free on the Mac App store, iBooks Author is an amazing new app that allows anyone to create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks — and just about any other kind of book — for iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.

Did I say it is free of charge on the Mac App Store?

This application should facilitate the process for creating custom interactive eBooks that play well, natively, in Apple (and perhaps other) devices. Now all one needs is creativity…

One of the sources: The Official Apple Website, and TheNextWeb.

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