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Enterprise apps find a space on consumer devices

Joab Jackson | Dec. 30, 2010
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs formally introduced the iPad in January of this year, he had mostly the consumer market in mind for his much anticipated new product. Nonetheless, the iPad, and similar consumer-focused devices such as the iPhone and Android-based smartphones are increasingly being used for

What is the advantage of using a consumer device? One is superior usability. A lot of thought has been put into making consumer devices as easy to use as possible. As a result, such devices can make employers more efficient, Labana said.

"If you can make a doctor or lawyer five percent more productive, well, that's a big payback, financially," said Chris Fleck, Citrix vice president of community and solutions development.

Usage of these devices varies from workplace to workplace. In many cases, it is the organization's executives who first get the iPad or Android phone for themselves and ask the IT staff to support it, notes Fleck.

In other cases, the devices are used to make life easier for the mobile employees. The SugarCRM app, for instance, is used mostly by mobile workers to fetch client contact information such as phone numbers, addresses or e-mails from the CRM app back at the office, Oram said.

Citrix has thus far had a million downloads of its Receiver client, available for the iPhone, iPad and the Android. The Receiver software allows users to access their desktop computers, both the applications and the data, although it requires Citrix server software to virtualize the desktop. The client makes life easier for administrators because they don't have to worry about supporting multiple mobile platforms, Fleck said.

Of course, developing for consumer devices can pose additional challenges for enterprise software companies, particularly if they wish to work with Apple, which controls which applications can be deployed on its devices.

"Apple has some room for improvement," in getting more enterprise applications for the devices, Oram said. "The deployment process is a little challenging if you are thinking about a one-off customized application."

Application vendors should also try to take advantage of some of the native capabilities of these devices, added Wettemann. For instance, smartphones and tablets have geo-location capabilities that can pinpoint the user's location. Such a feature could be harnessed in enterprise applications as well.

Despite these limitations, it is clear that many of tomorrow's consumer-oriented devices will find a place in the workforce as well.

The devices such as iPads "really have transformed into business tools," Fleck said. "They are allowing a lot of people to leave their laptops at home."

 

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