Welcome back to the latest edition of Inside Looking Out. We had the opportunity to sit down last week with Chris Schroeder, Founder and CEO of App47, a Mobile Application Management company. We covered a broad range of topics, including mobile application management, mobile application development, mobile security, and HTML5. You can check it out below.
The Enterprise Mobility Foundation: Hi Chris, Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. We all talk about the opportunities mobility brings to the workplace. Where do you see the greatest potential benefits?
Chris Schroeder: If the consumerization of the enterprise adopts not only the “App”, but the immersive design of the “App”, it has the potential of making work, I dare say, fun again. About a year ago I was working with an innovative construction company helping them build a few iPad Apps. One that stood out was a project management App that tracked the progress of floor build outs. The site foreman would click on a wall, mark it as done and and see it build out on the iPad from dashed lines to a formed wall. This replaced the foreman writing down what was done, entered into a spreadsheet by the site admin, emailed to the project manager and uploaded into a central database. Not only did this reduce workload and shorten reporting time, it gave the foreman instant gratification of work completed for that day. The foreman wasn’t playing a game, but it had similar animations that gave it a feeling of fun, more importantly a desire to get the next wall completed.
The EMF: There’s a lot of buzz these days about mobile apps. No question. However, there is a growing debate around building native applications vs. web-based apps vs “hybrid” apps. Which one wins?
CS: In the enterprise App market, the technology is the easy part; it’s changing the business model and the IT focus….that is the truly hard part. In this case, it’s the mobile user experience that matters. It is obvious that the success of the application, and thus the smartphone, is due to the [immersive] intuitive touch interface with apps that can work in a mostly connected environment. The user doesn’t care if they click on a native app, a web clip, or a native app that is essentially an HTML5 container—they simply want the app to be fast, intuitive and simply just work.
The EMF: But will the enterprise care about how they get developed?
CS: I do think the enterprise will care more how they get developed than the consumer does today. A consumer based app company looks at each platform as a potentially new revenue stream. The enterprise looks at each platform as a new line item in the R&D cost center. The enterprise will either A) select one platform and write native apps, or B) allow any platform (employee liable devices) and look for the right multi-platform solution.
The EMF: So is HTML5 the new Java? Haven’t we heard before the great promise for “write once, run anywhere” that never truly delivered?
CS: First of all, I like where HTML5 is heading, the goals they have set out to achieve and I hope they get close to the promise. However I think people have already tried to put HTML5 on that Java pedestal, meaning writing native apps on multiple platforms is the problem, with HTML5 being the answer. Between different keyboard layouts, international character sets, different screen size and resolutions, differences in browsers and OS versions, there is a lot to account for even in HTML5. At this time, I think we are trading one problem for a different set of problems introduced by HTML5 technology. Although I said I like where it’s going and I hope we get close, if history repeats itself, by the time we get there, there will be some new disruptive technology to debate.
The EMF: It seems to me though that security will become an increasing pain point….
CS: At least in the enterprise, if security isn’t the first question, it’s the second. With the consumerization of the enterprise adopting the app, it’s no longer a question of how to secure the device, but how to secure the app and the enterprise data. Security is best solved by layers of security, not one strong solid wall. Securing the device is the first step, then we need to secure the download of the app, but then the next step must be securing the functions and access to data elements within the app in a context aware manner. This is a more interesting and dynamic problem to solve through the diversity of apps being built along with existing policy management infrastructure.
The EMF: Let’s shift gears and talk a bit about mobile policy management. We often talk about business policies for mobility and the IT policies for devices. When are we going to start to have policies that are targeted to the application(s) and/or the data?
CS: Now that we’ve figured out how to secure the device, we (as a market) are currently figuring out the best way to distribute applications securely. I do think the next step is to solve how the same level of access controls, policies and security that are applied to existing enterprise applications are applied to mobile apps. I think what may be different is that the policies will need to be dynamic, for example, is this employee allowed to access this data at this time, in this location on this device type, or specific device. A dynamic, context aware policy management capability for enterprise mobiles apps is the next step in securing them for the enterprise environment.
The EMF: Last question. Today, the vast majority of mobile applications are custom built, whether that be via a MEAP, a framework, or a one-off project. When are we going to see the majority of apps being sold “as is,” off-the-shelf by ISVs? Is this even possible?
CS: The software distribution model has been disrupted from shipping boxes, to downloading over the internet, to delivery over the web, now delivery through the App Store or Marketplace. Although the App Store experience allows the platform provider to “manage” the buyers experience to both generate revenue and protect their platform, it does create a significant problem for ISVs. If we go back to our security question, there is also value provided here in that the end user has some assurance when they download the Acme Expense Management App, it was actually made by Acme, not someone looking to steal information or money. We are starting to see changes in the platform providers to accommodate the B2B interaction. I think this trend will continue and provide a viable solution for ISVs mid to late next year that will allow ISVs to sell direct to customers while maintaining the verification of the App Store distribution model.
Well there you have it. Thanks Chris, for taking the time to chat with us about your views on enterprise mobility. If interested, you can connect with Chris here. Do you know anyone who should be a guest here on Inside Looking Out? Drop us a line.