Selling other peoples' apps -- 20% of large companies do it

Many companies outside of the IT vendor arena are assuming roles as 'cloud service brokerages,' new survey finds.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

A sizable number of the nation’s top companies, almost 20 percent, are making app marketplaces -- along with selling third-party apps -- a part of their business strategy.

iPad photo by Joe McKendrick 5-2013
Photo by Joe McKendrick

That's the takeaway from a new survey of Fortune 500 companies by AppDirect, a cloud service marketplace and management vendor. For this report, AppDirect searched for applications and application stores or marketplaces related to or offered by each company listed on the 2013 Fortune 500 list. Common search tools included Google.com, popular app marketplaces, and corporate websites.

It first blush, it doesn't seem to make much sense for a non-tech company -- such as a consumer goods manufacturer -- to be hosting its own app marketplace, at least for external consumption. But there is value in having this capability. Apps distributed by non-tech companies typically add some kind of value-add to product lines or consumer engagement strategies. For example, insurance companies offer accident reporting and auto safety apps.

App marketplaces sponsored by corporations may not be the full-featured storefronts that Apple and Google offer. There is wide variation in how Fortune 500 companies define “marketplace,” with more than a third of these enterprise-run app stores, 37%, lacking key features such as billing and identity management.

Interestingly, while mobile comes to mind when mentioning apps, there are also a number of SaaS applications -- accessible from any device or PC -- now being offered through enterprise app markets as well. A quarter of the apps offered by the Fortune 100 are SaaS applications, the survey finds. Among companies selling third-party applications, most are SaaS applications. As the survey's authors explain it, "The rise of SaaS may be attributed to the fact that these apps can be an opportunity for long-term sales revenue (monthly subscription) versus the one-off purchase typical of mobile apps."

In essence, the survey report notes, "these companies are brokering software and services, making them a part of one of the cloud’s fastest growing sectors: 'cloud services brokerages."

The technology and telecommunications industries lead the Fortune 500 in hosting app marketplaces. Tech and telco operate the majority of app marketplaces (43% and 42%, respectively). Aerospace/defense placed third with 22% operating their own app stores. Another area in which aerospace/defense shows well is in third-party apps, offered by 33%. 

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