|Priyanka Joshi / Mumbai August 18, 2011, 0:10 IST|
A craze among individuals, Apple has now launched its B2B App Store in India, allowing businesses to make volume purchases of apps. Companies can now deploy their own custom-made apps on iPad and iPhone devices for employees. The 4.5 million apps on the Apple App Store has been one of the biggest reasons for the success of iOS devices like iPhones and iPads.
Apple has also enabled a mass distribution system aimed at enterprise users, (called a volume purchase programme). This lets businesses buy third-party apps from the B2B App Store at reduced costs per-user on a mass-purchase basis and enables them on an employee's device. Businesses can buy custom B2B apps from developers through the Apple volume purchasing programme. The minimum price for a custom B2B app is $9.99.
“Whether you're providing apps to two employees or to 10,000, the volume purchase programme makes it simple to find, buy, and distribute the apps your business needs,” says Apple's website. According to Apple, custom B2B apps are built specifically for business by third-party developers and iOS developers can create B2B apps for customers enrolled in the programme.
Enterprise app developers across the globe have begun writing iOS apps for native industries and companies. For instance, Sourcebits, a software development company with offices in Bangalore and the US, is building custom apps for enterprise customers in India. It claims it saw rising interest for iOS applications in the enterprise, with the iPad becoming the most ubiquitous device of choice for access, collaboration and management for most enterprise managers.
Sourcebits' senior vice-president, Sudhir Kulkarni, says, “While the Indian enterprise customer is cost-conscious and adoption of iOS devices lag in comparison to the US, Europe and Japan, we do see a very high growth rate of adoption, eventually leading to a high potential return for Indian enterprises in deploying iOS apps…Employees in enterprises are consumers too, and as consumers, they have increasingly adopted iOS devices in their daily lives. We have also seen a surge in Apple computer adoption in the enterprise and foresee our expertise in Mac OS-X based software would create numerous enterprise solutions that work on the Apple eco-system - computers, tablets and iPhones, all while leveraging iCloud in a big way,” he adds.
Ian Thain, a senior technical evangelist with Sybase, writes on his blog, “Having an enterprise app store allows the information worker to see what his company suggests is a productive app, outside their internal developments. This is something SAP and Sybase believe, and are already working on such models.”
The potential is huge. Companies like Unilever have reportedly given around 30 iPads to their senior managers and executive board members, partly to familiarise them with technology the consumer goods company feels is important for marketing. “When you see board members swapping apps like kids swapping football stickers, you know you've got them,” said Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer. British luxury brands like Burberry, best known for its $1,000 trench coats, has begun using iPads in select stores across the globe to allow customers to view its London runway shows and place orders on the spot.
Apple, on its website, described the B2B site as an IT manager with the ability to use a corporate credit card to buy apps in volume (at the same price consumers pay), including custom apps built by third-party developers. Once purchased, IT managers get redemption codes for each app and can control the distribution of apps by providing the codes to users through email or an internal website.
Cisco has already announced a similar B2B application storefront approach for its Cius tablet called AppHQ, a combination of an app stores and a tablet management and app development system. Sybase, along with its parent company, SAP, already offers a number of mobile apps for the iPhone and the iPad and would benefit from business app sales through Apple’s B2B store. While several Sybase and SAP apps are free, apps like Bizbox Direct allow the routing of workflow messages without the need for email, they available at the store for $149.99 (per app). Sybase mobile database client apps for iPads costs $7.99 each.
The idea is to keep things painless for IT departments to manage employees’ Apple devices. Should a company want to provide Apple’s business productivity tools like Keynote or Numbers, or any of the thousands of business-specific apps, app developers can now do it at a stroke. That’s something that may be tempting for businesses trying to squeeze more value out of their staff while they’re on the move, or perhaps even working from home.