2013 could be the year that enterprise apps come into their own. “Enterprise apps today are where consumer apps were three or four years ago,” explained Rajeev Chand of Rutberg & Company, a boutique investment bank focused on wireless and digital media. “The consumer mobile market took off, driven by the iPhone and the app store, and now you are starting to see enterprise grow significantly.”
“The space around enterprise apps and mobility is only just beginning to wake up. It is still small and ready to take off,” said Genband CFO Daryl Raiford. Genband invests in partnerships with developers who create enterprise apps for its A2 communications server.
According to the Antenna Mobile Business Forecast, enabling employee mobility is now as important to companies as is reaching customers via mobile devices. But only 1% of the companies surveyed for the forecast had started working on native mobile apps for employees, while 43% had started working on native mobile apps for customers.
Developers large and small see an opportunity to create customizable apps for business. Some apps are marketed as enterprise apps, but ultimately target consumers. Cisco and Qualcomm recently launched a software platform that helps retailers develop turnkey apps that deliver offers to customers when they log onto the company’s Wi-Fi network. The app is marketed to enterprises like shopping malls and airports as way to help their customers (the retailers) connect with their customers (the shoppers).
Cisco says that enterprise apps can give companies a way to monetize their investment in wireless infrastructure, and as such they represent something of a sea change for corporate IT departments. “IT folks [realize] they can impact the top line. IT is not a cost center anymore,” said Prashanth Shenoy, senior marketing manager of Cisco’s wireless networking group.
Rutberg & Company’s Rajeev Chand says he sees entrepreneurs with new ideas for enterprise apps every week, but many of these startups will have to compete with the biggest software companies in the world. SAP, Oracle and IBM have all invested heavily in mobile apps for the enterprise. “When the Oracles and the IBMs start to take notice and begin to talk about it, you know that there is something there,” said Genband’s Raiford. Breaking into the space will be challenging, but very rewarding for companies that succeed.
Follow me on Twitter.