The market for downloadable mobile applications has increased exponentially since its introduction, with well over 500,000 apps on the Apple App Store and over 500,000 apps in the Android Market now. However, even though over 800 million people have downloaded Angry Birds, the mobile app market is not just for fun and games. Enterprise players like Cisco and Citrix are catching up by delivering mobile versions of their products, and hot newcomers like Box.net and Dropbox are combining the power of cloud computing and mobility to drive rapid growth of their business and personal productivity solutions. Furthermore, companies themselves are increasingly developing customised apps for their employees and business partners to access corporate applications, collaboration tools, intranets and messaging.
The trifecta of advanced mobile devices, Web-accessible enterprise and cloud applications and the rapid uptake of downloadable apps is making virtually every user-owned smartphone and tablet a "business" device, whether or not the CIO is actively involved.
According to a recent report by IDC, China's smartphone market would overtake United States to become the largest market for smartphone shipments this year. Ovum also reported that smartphone penetration and application stores in emerging markets of Asia Pacific are increasing with users seeking a richer experience on their mobile devices. With this increased smartphone penetration in the Asia-Pacific region, employees are now more likely than ever to own their own smartphones and, being already adept at using apps for personal reasons, they will be eager to use them for work-related tasks above and beyond e-mail.
Enterprise collaboration - sharing documents, project management, instant messaging etc. - will be especially popular via mobile apps. As a recent article titled 'Mobile App Innovation Inspires Enterprise Collaboration' points out, "mobile apps are becoming more effective than the mobile Web because they allow users to complete tasks without confusion and interruption. As companies shift towards a mobile workforce, the use of apps will become an integral part of the workflow, and as a result, will facilitate better collaboration."
IT managers know their employees and partners want mobile apps that deliver access to corporate applications, and are actively implementing mobile apps to fulfill this purpose. This is no surprise considering the productivity benefits of a workforce that is always connected. Companies that embrace widespread mobility are also more responsive and competitive because they can share critical information more widely and rapidly than their less-connected rivals.
However, enterprise-focused mobile apps also present complex IT management challenges - from supporting and training employees on app usage, to managing a diverse array of enterprise apps and unifying them with cloud services, to securing corporate data downloaded to mobile devices via apps.
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