Mobile Application Development and Delivery: Service Providers Offer Unique Benefits, but Does IT Need Them?

K. Weldon

K. Weldon

Summary Bullets:         

  • Mobile application development and delivery has become a big focus for service providers, which offer a range of different approaches, including platform-enabled development, delivery of third-party apps, and enterprise app stores.
  • These solutions may complement internal capabilities from IT; what can they do that IT cannot?

The mobile application has become the new frontier for service providers adding to their managed mobility services portfolios.  As hundreds of thousands of mobile apps are now available for download from app stores, at the very least, IT may need help in sorting through, vetting, and establishing workflow procedures to approve or disapprove applications for specific users or departments.  However, service providers want to do more than provide a way to manage third-party applications.  Many of them are hoping to monetize application development and delivery.  For example, a number of operators and IT service providers (such as AT&T, Verizon, and Accenture) are hosting mobile enterprise application platforms (MEAPs) that are used to develop custom mobile applications, or they can deliver third-party enterprise apps as a service for horizontal business processes, for a specific vertical application, or to empower B2B2C applications such as mobile marketing campaigns.  Many large IT service providers such as CSC and IBM are more likely to develop custom applications for a particular customer, but can optionally host them and deliver them as a service.  There are also hybrid approaches; service providers such as T-Systems have developed a set of business applications with broad appeal and are offering them to a variety of customers across different industries.

The ‘enterprise app store’ is beginning to catch on as a way to maintain a private database of all the mobile business applications (custom-developed by service providers, downloaded from app stores, developed internally, or purchased from individual ISVs) that have been approved for use by IT.  A self-service portal may be deployed so that employees can see the set of possible applications they can use and provision them from the “store.”  This kind of functionality has become an extension of a number of mobile device management platforms from vendors such as MobileIron and Sybase that are also used by operators offering managed services.

Large enterprises may have IT staffs with the capability to develop their own applications; after all, they know their own requirements better than outsiders, and they can often develop apps more cost-effectively than outsourcing this function to an external developer.  However, they may find this task to be harder than they imagined, especially as the apps need to be supported on an increasing number of mobile devices with different operating systems and must be optimized for the smaller screens and limited processing power and storage of a mobile device (compared to a desktop PC).  Service providers can also help with the hardening, sandboxing, and hosting of applications.  As the need for mobile applications grows, many departments and constituencies within the company may start clamoring for limited IT development resources.  Going to an outside service provider may end up being the logical way to develop applications more efficiently and rapidly; to leverage existing applications that may require minor modifications; and to pay for application usage via a utility model, with a small monthly recurring cost per device, rather than a more expensive software license fee.

About Kitty Weldon
As Principal Analyst for Enterprise Mobility at Current Analysis, Kathryn is responsible for analyzing events, companies, products and technologies within the wireless and converged wireline/wireless enterprise services and solutions space.

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