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14 Things I Learned At the Mobile Enterprise Summit

Enterprise app stores, the "IT-ization of the consumer," and mobile Web apps were some of the trends I learned about at the Mobile Enterprise Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Tech market researcher GigaOM Pro and mobile vendor Appconomy held the first Mobile Enterprise Summit on the new campus of UC San Francisco earlier today. The speakers, an impressive selection of this small but growing community (remember, it was enterprise-only), had some insights and quotes that should interest developers and IT users alike.

1.Mobile is "about bringing everything back that was personal about the PC," opined Steve Papermaster, chairman and co-CEO of Appconomy. Papermaster wasn't super-clear explaining what he meant by that quote, but looking at his sick resume, I'm inclined to take him at his word.

2. Why has enterprise mobility been relatively slow to take off? Co-host JP Finnell blames the lingering recession's effect on corporate spending. Agreed, but I also blame the rise of Web 2.0, which lured most of the available developers in the past few years off to create the next Farmville or Twitter. No developers means no apps - which is why a number of vendors are preparing to offer tools to lure Web developers back to the mobile fold (see points 11-12 below).

3. Along with demanding the ability to Bring Their Own Device to work, employees (especially younger ones) also want to self-provision their apps based on recommendations gleaned from their social tools and personal contacts, according to T.A. McCann, former CEO of social contacts app, Gist, and now, after Gist's recent acquisition by Research in Motion, a VP at RIM. This self-provisioning workstyle is popular with 20 and 30-somethings, though McCann says even old 40-something dudes like himself can get with the program.

4. We've all heard about the Consumerization of IT. Finnell had an additional trend playing off the former: "the IT-ization of the consumer." By that, he means that workers who bring in their own devices to the office are both savvier about how their device works, but also have more psychological ownership of these devices. As a result, they are much more likely to try - and succeed - at solving technical problems on their own instead of calling their IT help desk.

5. That can lead to big enterprise savings, according to Ojas Rege, vice-president of products and marketing at MobileIron. He cites an unnamed enterprise customer that deployed 5,000 iPads to its employees along with mobile device management software. Despite those additional costs, the company was able to nearly break-even due to major reductions in help desk calls, he said.

6. Rege also says that enterprises are starting to create dedicated teams within IT to manage mobility.

7. What will be first great mobile enterprise app after e-mail? Opinions varied. JP Finnell thought it would be mobile CRM (something my masters at Sybase would probably agree with - one of our first apps co-developed with SAP last year was a mobile extension to SAP CRM). McCann, meanwhile, sees opportunity in helping CIOs compare the features and prices of different enterprise cloud services, as well as mashup geolocation capabilities with your contacts. That way, instead of broadcasting your location to your friends, an app could alert you when close friends are near.

8. Sybase's head of mobility Raj Nathan divides enterprise apps into three classes: B2C apps, enterprise workflow enhancers, and executive tools like analytic dashboards. Any of them could be transformative. Nathan cites the example of a beer delivery person on his route who sees that a competing beer is on sale at the grocery store. Using a mobile app, the deliveryperson can immediately adjust prices to match or beat the competitor. Real-time data combined with augmented workflow beats any business analyst forecasting model hands-down, he said.

9. Enterprise app stores aren't a fantasy, but a big necessity, according to David Patron, head of mobile initiatives at PepsiCo. GetJar gets about 3 million app downloads a day from its consumer/business app store, according to CMO Patrick Mork. AppMobi has signed up to provide a white-label enterprise app store for two major tablet vendors, according to Steve Tsuruda, 'chief matchmaker' (read: business development) at AppMobi.

10. The key thing about enterprise app stores, according to AppCentral CEO Ken Singer, is that they must have a "discoverability" feature. That is, since apps will be largely self-provisioned by employees, the enterprise app store or mobile device management software must be able to automatically find those apps in order to secure them, apply needed updates, etc. Discoverability is key to managing the total lifecycle costs, which will invariably be way higher than the price of an app.

11. With "fragmentation here to stay," according to GetJar's Mork (the company supports 2,500 phone models on 8 operating systems), mobile Web apps will become increasingly attractive. So agrees Sybase's Nathan, who expects about 2/3 of coming mobile enterprise apps to be built using Web standards rather than as the native apps that dominate today. That will be especially true for workflow extension-type apps, which are often very lightweight, he said.

12. For designing apps to run on tablets, the user interface model of tabs is out, replaced by filters, says Sean Whiteley, vice-president of marketing at Salesforce, by the way, plans to release an Android version of its flagship CRM app by the end of the year, as well "create wrappers" that help Web developers port their apps to mobile, he said.

13. Another problem with enterprises without enterprise app stores: the micro-transaction problem. In other words, enterprise accounting departments don't want to have to deal with thousands of employees expensing 99 cent app downloads, said Singer. As a result, some enterprises are actually giving employees gift cards to buy apps, so as to wholly avoid the expense issue, he said.

14. Storage maker Brocade is a surprisingly progressive mobile user. It first began offering employees smartphone stipends in May 2007 (4 years ago!) as part of its Bring Your Own Device program, according to Roger Hale, head of IT security. Brocade is so progressive that even its lawyers no longer use BlackBerries, but rely on Android smartphones instead. "That was a huge win," Hale said, in a massive understatement.

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