Apperian Helps Mobile Management Create Customized Mobile Apps for iPad, iPhone



Imagine that your fast-moving company has a large, mobile sales force. The team in the field needs the ability to grab images from the company’s database of constantly changing products in order to share the images with clients. To do this, the sales team needs a device that can connect wirelessly to the company database, is ideal for showcasing images, has a long-life battery, and is lightweight.


In other words, the sales team members need iPads.


But the iPad is primarily a consumer device. And there are no apps in the iTunes store that give an enterprise a secure connection to its own database for the purposes of providing a real-time product catalog.


That’s where Apperian, a Boston-area startup launched in 2009, comes in.


This summer, the 17-employee company will launch its Enterprise Application Services Environment, which is currently in beta. EASE is a software development kit (SDK) that enables developers at organizations to create, deploy, update, and manage enterprise iPhone OS-based apps.


Enterprise users get apps with the interface they know from the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. And the enterprise IT staff members have the control they need to securely deliver information from the company’s data resources that mobile workers often require.


We spoke recently with Chuck Goldman, formerly Apple’s director of field engineering and professional services and currently Apperian’s CEO, and Cimarron Buser, vice president of products for Apperian. In our interview, we discussed Apperian’s origins, EASE, and the potential uses of iPads and iPhones in the enterprise.


EnterpriseMobileToday: How did Apperian get its start?


Goldman: As Apple’s director of field engineering and professional services, my team was responsible for creating enterprise switchers to Apple products, such as the MacBooks, Power Macs, and the iPhone.


The last year and a half I spent at Apple, before Apple released its iPhone SDK and the iTunes App Store, we focused on getting the phone into hands of early adopters and innovators at enterprises. To demonstrate the iPhone’s capabilities, we started building enterprise apps for large companies. These were business-to-employee apps that made the iPhone more valuable beyond e-mail, calendaring, and on-the-go document review.


When the iTunes App Store came online, the thinking was that my team would stop building apps for enterprises, because that’s not the business Apple is in. Instead, our role would be to create an ecosystem of companies that could build their own business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-employee (B2E) apps to help their mobilized workforces. But most of these enterprises didn’t have any Mac OS X experience. So I knew then there was a great opportunity to spin out a company like Apperian.


EMT: What does EASE offer that Apple’s iPhone SDK doesn’t?


Buser: The majority of iPhone OS app developers use Apple’s iPhone SDK to build B2C apps that they then upload to Apple’s iTunes App Store (after the necessary approval from Apple).


But EASE adds software components that enhance the SDK, such as connectors that allow iPhone OS apps to talk to an enterprise’s own database, or the ability to do push notification.


Also, EASE enables an enterprise’s IT staff to build authorization into apps, to make sure each user is allowed to continue using the app that would access the company database, for instance. We enable the enterprise developer to build in encryption and other security controls. B2E apps have a different set of requirements from the B2C apps developed for the iTunes App Store.


EMT: Why is EASE important to enterprises?


Goldman: CIOs and the IT and mobility staff at enterprises have a very big challenge right now: the invasion of the iPhone and iPad. Employees are buying their own, or buying them via company stipends, and bringing them to work. So it’s in the enterprise’s best interest to turn those iPhones and iPads into productivity tools for the company in truly engaging ways.


EMT: Can you give examples of the apps enterprises are building with EASE?


Buser: A large enterprise with employees spread across many buildings might want to develop an iPhone app that is a constantly updated employee directory. Employees on the go would have easy access to the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of other company employees.


This might sound simple. But when you have multiple campuses around the world and you’re trying to find the right person to talk to, it’s not a trivial problem to solve.


Also, security is an ongoing concern at enterprises. So the IT people at enterprises need the ability to allow or deny access to an internal app.


For example, an employee might want to use his own iPhone for work. When that employee leaves, you can’t take his iPhone away—he owns it. But with an iPhone app developed with EASE, you can disable that company directory iPhone app so it no longer works for him.


Another way enterprises might use EASE is to create apps specifically for conferences. The app might show who’s speaking, when and where. It might also give users the ability to see videos of sessions they missed, or to download and view presentations as PDFs. Attendees could use the app to communicate with one another, too, during the conference.


Then there’s the idea of using an iPad as a digital ‘lookbook,’ a product catalog with images displayed on one side of the screen and a product description on the other. There’s a lot of excitement around using the iPad as a tool for salespeople in the field, because of its bigger screen. So an enterprise could use EASE to build an iPad app that connects its salespeople in the field real-time to product information on the enterprise database.


EMT: Are Apperian clients building their own apps, or do they hire your company to build them?


Goldman: Both. The big innovative companies, the early adopters like Novartis, Genentech, Kraft, and Unisys, are building their own apps. Some are building dozens of iPhone OS apps for their employees. But the majority of companies are hiring integrators like us to build internal apps for them.


EMT: Which industries is Apperian targeting?


Goldman: So far we’ve seen deployments in the biotech, health, retail, and government segments, but we expect this to expand to all industries.


EMT: Will the EASE platform allow enterprises to develop apps that run on other smartphones?


Goldman: Our first version is for the iPhone OS, because that’s what the most innovative companies want to develop for right now. The next big mobile platform, we feel, will be Android, so that will be where we focus next. The bottom line is, EASE is being built to accommodate multiple platforms.


EMT: What’s your pricing model for EASE?


Goldman: The model for delivering EASE will be as “software as a service,” with pricing based on the number of devices you have.




James A. Martin has written about mobile technology since the mid 1990s. He’s coauthor of Getting Organized in the Google Era (Broadway Books).



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