What Apple’s New App Store Volume Purchasing Means for Enterprises and Developers

Slalom Consultant Greg Martin

Greg Martin is a member of the Slalom National Mobility team which incubates emerging technology solutions in areas such as mobility, user experience and alternative application hosting.

Last week Apple announced the upcoming App Store Volume Purchasing Program for Business.  This program promises to fill current gaps in the way that enterprises are able to buy and distribute 3rd party enterprise applications.

This is a big deal, both for enterprises and developers.  Anyone who has deployed iOS within their organization or built apps targeted for enterprise is aware of the existing limitations.

Currently the deployment of 3rd party apps within an organization requires that your employees procure the product from the App Store directly. If costs are involved, some sort of reimbursement process is necessary.  Additionally, if your organization deploys internally built applications along side 3rd party applications, it can be confusing to end-users when they are able to get some apps directly from an internal App Store, while others must be installed from the public one.

So what are the benefits (and potential downside) of this new program?

Volume Purchasing

The obvious benefit is for organizations to bulk order licenses for the applications they use.  Aside from ease of purchase and distribution, there is the potential for savings on apps with a high cost due to the ability to negotiate with the vendor for special pricing.

Enterprise iOS apps - now with volume licensingFrom a developer perspective, being able to work directly with customers, rather than relying on the public App Store, will greatly improve customer interaction and relationships.

Customization

Up until now, as a 3rd party developer, it has been impossible to customize an application for a specific client.  Things posted to the public App Store had to be generic.  On the enterprise side, this can be a big frustration.  Little things like custom corporate branding for an application, which on the surface seem like they should be easy, have not be available for these apps.

Now developers have the ability to create custom builds for their clients that can meet these requirements.  There is also a mechanism that will allow, if a developer decides to support it, deeper customizations to an application as well as more automatic integration with a customers back-end systems.

Improved Deployment

Last but not least in the “pros” column is improved deployment.  The issue mentioned above around the confusion that often comes from mixing internal enterprise apps with publicly available 3rd party apps can be a headache for IT departments.  The ability to integrate with MDM solutions and deploy apps in much the same way as internal enterprise apps are deployed today will ultimately lead to more open adoption of 3rd party apps within organizations and improve distribution options for the developers.

Cost

There is one piece of this announcement that I am not completely onboard with.  Currently the guide posted on Apple’s site mentions

Businesses can buy custom B2B apps from developers in a private transaction through the Volume Purchasing Program. The minimum price for a custom B2B app is $9.99.

The purchasing of enterprise software almost always results in a negotiation.  Developers will often give discounts per volume.  The number of users could bring the price per seat down to less than $9.99 or even free considering these apps are often client applications and there is a cost associated with back-end or SaaS system and integration as well.  I think the lack of a lower price or free option will keep some developers away from taking advantage of this program early on.

Ultimately this is a good thing for enterprises and enterprise mobile developers. It shows Apple is paying attention to the needs of business and are continuing to make the iOS platform more enterprise friendly.

– Greg Martin

Follow Greg on Twitter: @slalomdev.

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One Response to What Apple’s New App Store Volume Purchasing Means for Enterprises and Developers

  1. Nate Gigs says:

    Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We grabbed a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I\’m very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there..

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