In-house 'app stores' ease tablet-management woes

Although this level of control isn't for everyone, it does help keep a lid on chaos and support woes

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At Marist, code writers, including students, submit iPad applications to the Apple App Store for consideration after internal review at the college. "Once approved, the app becomes available to any users of the App Store," Thirsk says. So far, four applications have been approved and one is under review.

William Clark, a research vice president at Gartner, says CRM vendors, particularly those offering salesforce automation, are supporting tablets through native applications. But some ERP and supply chain management vendors are more conservative than CRM vendors and aren't prepared to deliver tablet versions of their applications anytime soon. "I'd say that most enterprise app vendors are hedging on tablet support by focusing on Web enablement, and taking a wait-and-see strategy to assess which of the [tablet] platforms is going to win out in the long term," Clark says.

He notes that companies using tablets that don't have internal development resources can turn to a growing number of vendors that specialize in helping to build custom enterprise mobile apps.

Potential integration hassles

Yet another tablet software issue involves integrating applications on the back end and determining whether the enterprise can handle this on its own or should seek outside help.

For some, the mobility strategy, including integration, is still unfolding. "By the end of the first quarter [of 2011], we are going to solidify our mobile development strategy, which will take many of our solutions to multiple mobile devices," Schumacher's Menefee says. "I am confident that I will need to outsource the bulk of the [software-related] work."

Tablets

McDade says integration of tablet applications with other applications is not an issue in the Morris School District, because unlike desktop and laptop computers, the devices aren't used to access internal file servers or other back-end apps that the district is running. The drawback is that this can limit the devices' value as a networked component. "The iPad device is basically an individual, consumer product," he says.

Whether it makes sense to hire outside experts to help with any needed integration depends on the scope and scale of the project, the constraints on human resources and IT, and the financial limits of the organization, Winthrop says. "They might not have enough [resources] to get this done on time, or they might not have the technical acumen," he says.

For many companies, the deployment of tablet devices is still so new that they haven't yet developed much expertise in terms of software development and integration.

"Organizations are very much still struggling with how to go about deciding what [apps] to mobilize and how they're going to support all this stuff," Winthrop says. "This is why it's key for organizations to develop a mobility strategy."

Bob Violino is a freelance writer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. You can reach him at bviolino@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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