Salesforce introduces custom AppExchange storefronts

Salesforce takes on the enterprise app store

Mac App store

Salesforce today introduces AppExchange Store Builder, which lets any customer set up a curated storefront of their most favorite (or most required-by-business) enterprise apps -- with Salesforce's own analytics under the hood and its identity infrastructure gluing the whole thing together.

As every company becomes a technology company -- or "app company," as Salesforce puts it -- Store Builder will make it easier to connect users in just a few clicks to the cloud-based tools changing the face of business. It's included in a customer's existing Salesforce subscription and available today.

"Building apps is only one half of being successful," said Jim Sinai, Salesforce senior director of AppExchange and platform.

This isn't the first time enterprise app stores have been tried. Good Technology, Apperian, BMC and several other vendors have taken a shot at the market. And while they've certainly found a niche, no enterprise app store has yet risen to do for business what the Apple App Store or Google Play have done for the consumer.

Because of this, so many business apps are still downloaded and managed through a user's iTunes or Google account. That's not so good for any enterprise that wants to maintain a level of control over app deployment and centralization, Sinai said, and it's especially not good in today's multi-platform, mobile/tablet/desktop/smart toaster world. 

"It doesn't make sense to put [enterprise apps] in a place where consumers are buying apps," Sinai said. 

Enter AppExchange Store Builder, based on Salesforce's own AppExchange app store, which lets customers of the company's flagship Salesforce1 platform distribute and manage web, desktop and mobile applications in a fully-branded, customized experience. Sinai boasts that setup is simple. Salesforce's own logo falls to the side. Administrators can control what gets rolled out to whom. And with Salesforce's own metrics and analytics engine, users can see what's getting downloaded and by whom.

It's all tied to a user's Salesforce identity, letting users download their apps across iOS, Windows, OS X or Android with one password and minimal friction.

There are plenty of potential use-cases here: A company could use it to distribute apps to its own employees. A cloud services reseller can use it to offer apps to customers, accepting payment via integrations with ecommerce AppExchange solutions like Chargent, Linvio and Zuora. Or a company could use it to offer a selection of apps to outside business partners, making sure everyone's on the same page with the same selection of software, Sinai said. 

The AppExchange Store Builder and enterprise app stores seem kind of inevitable. If apps are really leading the way toward new ways to work, new levels of productivity, and new opportunity for everybody there needs to be a better way to get them into the hands of workers.

This is especially crucial as enterprises increasingly turn to tools like Salesforce1's own Lightning Trailhead simple app development framework, or offerings like Xamarin, Kony, Appcelerator or FeedHenry. With the increase of home-grown apps built on user-friendly app building platforms, distribution and management may be the next great frontier. 

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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