Tim Corke, co-founder and marketing director at Tracktech, and Mobile Business Online
Tim Corke, co-founder and marketing director at Tracktech, and Mobile Business Online
apps reviewer extraordinaire
Rory O’Neill, BlackBerry RIM’s senior director for business marketing in EMEA
Rory O’Neill, BlackBerry RIM’s senior director for business marketing in EMEA
Jonathan Rutherford, head of large business marketing at Vodafone
Jonathan Rutherford, head of large business marketing at Vodafone
Chris Everitt, managing director at Panaramix
Chris Everitt, managing director at Panaramix
Dr Ben Hounsell, CEO at TenBu Technologies
Dr Ben Hounsell, CEO at TenBu Technologies

Mobile applications are one of the fastest growing, most exciting areas on the mobile scene. A recent study by Forrester Consulting found that North American enterprises can achieve a three year return on investment of up to more than 2800%, simply by expanding mobile device and app usage. The study also found that business efficiency benefits increase dramatically as organisations expand the number of enterprise apps deployed over BlackBerry smartphones that address the needs of their users. Heather McLean takes a look at this fast moving mobile world…

“The biggest driver for overall public awareness of apps has been the App Store; love or hate the iPhone, I think we all have to accept that. However, the massive availability of consumer apps (approx 90,000) on to the App Store has meant that everyone in the business community wants a piece of the action and it becomes a very complex beast,” states Tim Corke, cofounder and marketing director at Tracktech, and Mobile Business Online apps reviewer extraordinaire.

“Indeed, we’d all love to be a reseller or vendor of a business app that was receiving thousands of downloads a day as some consumer apps are, but the reality is that businesses are more complex than individuals and I believe there is a way to go before this is fully understood in this channel,” he continues.

Consumer fire starters

Rory O’Neill, BlackBerry RIM’s senior director for business marketing in EMEA, agrees: “On the consumer front, the launch of application stores, such as BlackBerry App World, have opened users’ eyes to what they can achieve with their mobile device beyond voice calls and messaging services. With awareness of applications increasing, consumers are now looking to smartphones which are optimised to run sophisticated applications and deliver unique and compelling experiences.”

While Chris Everitt, managing director at Panaramix, notes: “General awareness surrounding apps and the capabilities of smartphones has certainly increased over the past 12 months thanks to the deluge of consumer orientated apps being marketed by high profile app stores like Apple’s, and Nokia’s OVI. This is further backed up by the smartphone sector of the handset market being the only one to experience growth in 2009.

“However, the vast majority of this growth surrounding apps and smartphones is consumer oriented; whether it be business owners wanting iPhones or consumer take up of the once ‘business only’ BlackBerry service from RIM. Consumer demand will always drive mainstream handset and application development,” Everitt states.

Dr Ben Hounsell, CEO at TenBu Technologies, says the mobile apps arena is almost unrecognisable from 12 months ago. Serious pushes from Nokia, RIM, Orange, Microsoft, and of course Apple have added considerable legitimacy to the business model and resource, he states. “App developers are now actively being sought out and encouraged to work with the stores as competition hots up. This is providing an ever increasing array of apps, from serious business tools to amusing gimmicks.

“However, given that the price point of most apps in these stores is less than £10, the main drive seems to be with the consumer,” he agrees. “Though there are some serious apps on the market for businesses users, these seem to be sold more as a value-add play by the reseller or operator.”

Growing business trends

On how the mobile apps arena for business has moved on in the past 12 months, Jonathan Rutherford, head of large business marketing at Vodafone, notes: “The mobile apps arena is becoming a really exciting space to watch. Simple, mass market apps such as email and sat nav have now been complemented with a range of specialist apps for every need imaginable as apps stores really take off.

“An increase in the capability of smart phones, with most devices featuring GPS, means that location based services are increasing in popularity, and in turn this trend in LBS has enabled a brand new suite of business applications that add measured business value, in the form of cost control and more efficient work processes, which are two specific examples being field service management and scheduling,” continues Rutherford.

O’Neill says in the past 12 months, there has been a growing trend amongst forward thinking organisations to use their BlackBerry smartphone deployments to seamlessly and securely extend their existing business processes. By mobilising key systems and applications, organisations are not only able to improve productivity, but empower their people to think and take action in real time, which transform operations and deliver new levels of customer interaction, he claims.

“From customer relationship management (CRM) tools, to core enterprise resource planning (ERP), from databases to e-commerce portals, more and more organisations have realised that there are applications to suit their business, no matter what they size or sector,” states O’Neill.

Future gazing

Moving into 2010, companies will be looking to mobile applications that differentiate at the point of touching their customers says O’Neill. These include mobile CRM or sales force automation (SFA) solutions, which ensure employees have the information they need to make decisions in the frontline while they are servicing and responding to customers, he forecasts.

Hounsell states that security is key for 2010: “The pace of mobile productivity is greater than the security infrastructure many companies have in place to safeguard these mobile assets, so applications focusing on mobile security are going to be big in 2010. This will include apps for protecting mobile data and the mobile asset itself. With millions of corporate mobiles out in the field, and the growing trend for out of office working, the potential for security apps is considerable.”

Hot app trends for 2010 are rife, states Rutherford, who says: “Apps that help you manage workflow and job scheduling will continue to grow in relevance, value and in number in 2010. Customers continue to want to increase the efficiency of their operations and use technology to provide a great customer experience. Public sector is likely to be an area where mobilising apps will be of most interest to local authorities policing and healthcare in order to provide better information and tools to workers in the community.

“Another area that will continue to grow are those social apps that keep you in touch with colleagues, friends and family in a unique single experience, such as Vodafone 360, which brings together contacts from Facebook, email and instant messaging accounts into one service,” he adds.


Corke agrees: “I believe that 2010 will start to see developers really understanding and using the power of location-based services and I also see mobile money becoming absolutely massive in all of its various forms. However, I think the latter will see a higher level of mass acceptance later in 2010 and in to 2011.”


Best handsets

Richard Webb, Infonetics Research’s directing analyst for mobile devices, predicts massive growth for the driver of mobile apps, the smartphone: “Smartphones are on track to post a 14.5% increase in the number of units sold worldwide in 2009, and a 21% compound annual growth rate from 2008 to 2013, significantly better than other mobile phone segments. While smartphone revenue is expected to dip in 2009 mainly due to price erosion and lower-ARPU units coming to market, we expect it to pick up in 2010 and continue growing, easily outstripping the combined revenue of standard mobile phones by 2012.”

Which mobile devices are the best to run business apps is a difficult question to answer, claims Everitt. “The smartphone landscape is changing rapidly, but if I had to go our on a limb I would say that Android could well end up at the top of the pile. Android has no legacy issues to overcome and its open approach from launch is popular with developers. Once the device range increases I think we could see some spectacular growth there.”

While Corke comments: “My personal view will always be BlackBerry, but it is very much an individual choice, so I honestly do not believe that a single device can be the best. All of the different operating systems have their own merits and it is the job of the application developers of the world to capitalise on those unique individual merits dependant on the type of application, and target audience, for which they are developing.”

However, in terms of mobile devices most optimised for running business apps, Rutherford says: “It really depends on the users’ requirements. It’s key that dealers spend time understanding the users, and the environment they work in. There are countless device options ranging from ruggedized to touchscreen devices, from Windows Mobile to Blackberry, but the choice of the operating system will depend on the customers IT infrastructure and their requirements for ease of administration and use.”


Could do better

However, finding out the requirements of the customer is down to the dealer, and Everitt states dealers are not making the most of selling mobile applications in the B2B space. “In general, they aren’t into apps enough. Of course there are forward thinking businesses and dealers that promote and sell applications and they are probably the same dealers that have adopted a fixed-mobile converged strategy and doing well with it too in general.

“Yet there is still a reticence, suspicion or lack of general acceptance of business applications in the channel. I believe this to be a simple matter of time; once the network operators begin to take business applications seriously it will eventually filter down through the channel,” he says.

Continuing, Everitt adds: “I think dealers need to accept that they have to put some effort in to really get to grips with applications, and what they can do for their business and the end customer, and then incorporate them in an intelligent way to boost their proposition. The independent dealer who is apps savvy can undoubtedly steal a march on the networks and competitors in winning and retaining customers.”

Corke agrees that dealers are not making the most of selling mobile applications in the B2B space. “As a very general, high level statement, I would say no. There are very definitely more and more out there who are starting to get it in the same way that many who work inside the development space have done for several years, but there is some way to go before mass adoption.

It is no coincidence that the uptake by the distributors and networks has been around those which are very simple to explain, such as TelMap, because this makes it easier in turn to pass on to staff, resellers and, ultimately, the end customer.”

Dealers definitely need to pay more attention to B2B apps, agrees Hounsell. He says they must particularly focus on the power and versatility of smartphone’s for business. “Voice and data tariffs aren’t enough, not even handsets,” he says. “It’s the applications that bring out a handsets features and potentially make good use of voice and data bandwidth also. Apps that can help tap into voice and data tariffs are valuable to dealers. There are quite a few about and this is how dealers should be thinking about selling these apps.”

Hounsell adds that dealers have some way to go in selling apps into B2B, as this is has not been their primary focus. He continues: “With increased competition and reduced margins mobile apps can provide a significant differentiator. Look at how O2 was able to do lure customers away from their incumbent providers during by selling iPhone and its wide range of applications. A focused array of differentiated business applications for B2B is a must for dealers in this rapidly evolving mobile market.”


How to sell

Dealers should continue selling mobile email and internet bundles, claims Rutherford, and position these as enablers for location based services, apps stores and business productivity applications. He says: “Engage with your service provider to increase the range of partner applications and services that you can offer to your customers.

“I think an area that dealers should also focus on is security, as more company information moves outside of the enterprise it is important to make sure that the right security services such as firewalls, VPN and antivirus are in place on the mobile device,” he adds. According to VF Research (2008 figures), nearly a quarter of all businesses (23%) have experienced security issues because employees have used mobile devices or laptops outside of work in contravention of company IT policies, notes Rutherford.

On major sales opportunities for dealers, Everitt says: “My belief is that applications that offer tangible, real benefits that translate easily across industries without prohibitive upfront investment or running costs will do well. Another important attribute is simplicity; the benefits and usability and return on investment need be obvious to both dealers and customers.

“Using business apps to make margin as well as hook and retain traditional revenue streams off the back of it, whether that be mobile or fixed business, is the obvious win for dealers,” continues Everitt.

“The apps market is young and there is a real opportunity for dealers to differentiate themselves by embracing it and getting ahead of the game. To date there is still plenty of industry talk about ‘applications and services’ but it is still lip service in most cases. The opportunity is there it just needs an investment of time and a commitment to add applications to the ‘core’ business offering,” concludes Everitt.

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