Café Innovation How about an SAP App store?
When the iPhone first came out many dismissed it as a toy for gadget lovers. Today, it has many copycats across the mobile spectrum. Google, BlackBerry and other popular handhelds have all tried to simulate the experience in different ways. Behind all this highly visible activity is the emergence of “apps” and the “app store.” Apple’s App store has thousands of apps available for free or paid downloads, and consumers are happily going for it. A lot of it is for the fun-factor – games, music and video. But, say, MacMillan et al. in a recent Business Week article (“Inside the App Economy,” by D. MacMillan, P. Burrows, S. E. Ante, Business Week, November 2, 2009), “… there’s much more to this surging market.”
For one, Google, and Research in Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry people, have established their own app stores. And they are being joined in this by others as well. All said, across the industry there are now a “dozen rival stores, and at least 100,000 apps have been created.”
Second, it is no longer just about fun for the sake of fun. People want to bring that experience into their work environments. Businesses are allowing their executives to increasingly manage their business with apps running right from their mobile devices. The Business Week article cites the availability of apps for Salesforce.com and other enterprise software vendors.
An interesting aspect of the apps made available in these app stores is that many of these have been developed by individual outsiders and not by the app store owners! The community approach is a key accelerating factor here. Given the increasing interest in Enterprise use of apps, it is not unreasonable to suppose that there will be app stores for driving more creative use of SAP functionality as well.
For long, SAP’s standard offerings have been stereotyped as robust, but a little boring to use. This can change dramatically, if using an iPhone or a BlackBerry a user is able to conduct transactions within an entire business process spanning SAP and other functionality! SAP and its mobility partners are aware of this, and no doubt will offer the ability to conduct an increasing number of SAP transactions from mobile devices. But I see an even bigger movement happening outside this group, with potential SAP app stores being started by others.
There is a budding movement in this arena that can quickly enable the enterprise user to run a mashup from a mobile device – one that also leverages services from SAP! If this emerging model can establish appropriate framework(s) quickly, then there is no saying what the vast ecosystem of SAP developers might create and populate the store(s) with! Perhaps in a future post, we shall continue the discussion on what such a store might have to offer!