An enterprising future for mobile app development?

Forget about consumer applications--the real money is in the enterprise. So says Rich Miner, the former Google vice president of mobile technology and Android mastermind who left his position to sign on as partner with Google Ventures, the web services giant's rumored $100 million venture fund. Speaking at a recent panel discussion hosted by the Boston chapter of the Mobile Monday networking organization and MIT's Mobile Club, Miner contended the most successful mobile applications to emerge from Apple's App Store are merely viral phenomena: "There isn't tons of money in consumer apps," he said, according to an article in "A business can empower a workforce by giving them a mobile data management cloud. The whole handset could become the workflow for an entire company. The real opportunity is the enterprise." Miner added he is optimistic developers will create new enterprise applications that operate across multiple device platforms, effectively placating companies that fear getting locked into a single OS: "The good news for mobile developers is that iPhone, Android and Nokia 60 all have the same HTML-based browsers to build dynamic apps."

If programmers are waiting for smartphones to gain greater traction in corporate America before turning their focus to enterprise development, the wait may be over. Eighteen months after Forrester Research published a much-discussed report titled "The iPhone Is Not Meant for Enterprises," the firm is changing its tune, indicating the iPhone is enterprise-ready after all. According to Forrester, some major corporations are beginning to issue their employees iPhones, and the outcome is a more contented workplace--IT managers at Kraft Foods, Oracle and Amylin Pharmaceuticals have all reported positive results, disproving concerns about iPhone security and management. "The companies say that the benefits of iPhone over other mobile devices include a happier, more productive workforce and lower support costs," writes Forrester analyst Ted Schadler, noting that employees prefer iPhones and require less hand-holding than users with other devices. Forrester also found that iPhones simplify mobile collaboration, and can even save organizations money thanks to more advantageous data pricing alternatives.

Smartphones are gaining favor with the mobile workforce as well. In fact, smartphones have now advanced to the point where business travelers can rely on them for roughly 80 percent of what they need for work, according to Frank Bernhard, technology economist for Omni Consulting Group LLP. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Bernhard contends the biggest challenge limiting widespread enterprise smartphone adoption is the small size of most devices, which makes it more difficult for workers to perform complicated tasks. "The smartphone allows us to do a lot of things," Bernhard says. "But its form factor has not been advantageous to the mobile worker." Perhaps the mobile worker user experience is where developers should turn their attention first--and where Google Ventures should start investing that $100 million. -Jason