Five Enterprise Apps for Mobile Computing

While consumer mobile apps represent a huge, growing market, largely thanks to Apple and its immensely popular App Store, enterprise apps for mobile computing have been slow to take off. Sure, some mobile downloads aimed at productivity in the workplace, such as salesforce.com, have been around for years -- yet they are the exception not the rule. Now, that's starting to change as more companies either roll out new mobile enterprise apps or add new platforms to their existing ones.

Case in point: BlueGrace Logistics, a provider of solutions for transportation management, introduced its first app for the iPhone this January. BlueGrace Mobile Freight Optimizer is a free application that provides real-time access to freight rates and transit times from multiple carriers.

Also in January, IBM announced that its Lotus Notes Traveler, push e-mail for Lotus Notes mobile users, would support versions 2.0 and 2.1 of Google's Android mobile operating system.

The key to market growth for mobile enterprise apps is mobile broadband connectivity, said Dan Shey, an analyst at ABI Research. Even Google's getting into the enterprise app game with its recent update to its suite of productivity apps.

"With more device options that will suit different needs of the mobile business customer as well as more price options for connectivity -- prepaid, day plans, week plans - mobile broadband access will increase among mobile business customers, " he said.

ABI Research predicts that mobile broadband connectivity access revenues will grow from $18 billion in 2009 to $39 million in 2014.

Mobilizing the workforce with corporate data from CRM and ERP planning systems became a hot area in 2009, Shey said.

"Businesses realized they needed to cut costs and become more efficient and there is no better way than to put connected devices and access to company data into the hands of sales and field force workers to avoid unnecessary travel and calls to the home office and customer sites," he said.

Five Enterprise Apps Aimed at Boosting Productivity

Here is a round-up of five recently issued mobile enterprise apps that are transforming the way companies do business.

BlueGrace Mobile Freight Optimizer

This offering provides a single source to receive rates and transit times from several carries. It also improves customer service allowing companies to give immediate quotes for full cost of product and shipping whether employees are on the road or in the office.

Mobile operating system: Apple iPhone

Top three benefits for enterprises:
1. Simplicity;
2. Ability to get instant shipping cost and transit times; and
3. Mobility.

Set up: Cloud

Pricing: Free

Concur Mobile

Concur Mobile is an extension of Concur Travel & Expense, a Web-based solution for companies to manage business travel with an on-demand service that eliminates traditional expense reports.

Mobile operating systems: iPhone OS, BlackBerry OS and Microsoft Windows Mobile

Top three benefits for enterprises:
1. Allows companies to support an employee throughout the entire business trip -- from booking the right airline/hotel to adding expenses to seamlessly generating a report back at the office;
2. Helps companies to improve cost control by making travel services easier to access and encouraging employees to stay in policy, thereby leading to more accurate expense reporting; and
3. Enables travelers to manage their itineraries and expense transactions from their smartphone, allowing them to complete reports in a timely fashion.

Set up: Installs and runs natively on the three platforms above. Once installed, it reaches back to the cloud to get data and update content, but it doesn't require a connection to view the cached data from the last time it was connected.

Pricing: Free for concur clients but certain transactions such as changing a ticket will generate a cost.

DataViz Documents To Go, Premium Edition

This product gives users the ability to view and edit MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Mobile operating system: Android, BlackBerry OS, iPhone OS, Maemo 5, Palm OS and Microsoft Windows Mobile.

Top three benefits for enterprises:
1. Enhanced productivity;
2. File fidelity -- all original file formatting is retained after a file has been edited on a smartphone and forwarded on; and
3. Security -- the app is tightly integrated with BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and therefore adheres to all IT policies on BES. In addition, the app opens password-protected files (Word and Excel 97-2007), meaning that data stored on the device is safe and secure.

Set up: Installs on a device

Pricing: $49.99

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