Companies have been struggling with mobilizing their technology and workforce. Over the last ten years, most have rolled out wireless access to email and web browsing, but many seem stuck on what to do next. Users have found success in adopting consumer-designed apps to support enterprise mobile data (think TripIt, Evernote or Dropbox), but most companies are struggling on identifying the next killer enterprise app or are bogged down in technology plans on how to present next generation wireless apps. Many don’t have the resources or knowledge to mobilize the entirety of their existing apps.

The pressure to roll out new apps or access to data keeps increasing. Incorporating consumer apps, many users want to take advantage of the computing devices they have to access data and even create data—while not on their laptops and PCs. Tablets are a driving force for this, as they allow a wider view of more complex data—like presentations, reports or spreadsheets. Many companies have yet to provide enterprise mobile file sharing systems, but the growth of companies in this area is tremendous. Computer Weekly recently wrote about three different systems competing in the enterprise (http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/quocirca-insights/2013/09/the-evolution-of-enterprise-fi.html) but there are literally hundreds. This will take up most of the planning cycles for companies in the next year, but many companies are also assessing their next generation of apps. This means mobilizing their current set of applications, including some of the most widely used—based on Windows OS.

Enterprise are straddling two worlds today—supporting business critical, legacy Windows apps and eliminating non-critical ones. Most companies have moved away from developing critical enterprise apps using the Windows architecture in order to have a more future-proofed app catalog. Most are looking to HTML5 as a next generation of app development because it bridges the fixed and mobile world (a topic for another blog later). So many companies are eliminating Windows apps. With the launch of Windows 8 last year, tech research firm Gartner said that, “many enterprises used the Windows 7 migration as an opportunity to reduce their app portfolios. Not all businesses have completed, or even begun, this migration… [a] typical organizations cut a quarter of their apps,”  many of them Windows-based. (http://www.informationweek.com/software/windows8/windows-8-the-legacy-apps-question/240010586). However it is also true that Windows apps will have a long tail and be found in enterprises for the next 20 years, many running critical business systems. But does it make sense to mobilize these apps—and how well will it work?

On September 27, 2013, Gartner analyst Gunnar Berger published a research note called, “The Good, the Bad and the Right Way to Deliver Windows Apps on iPads and Androids.” In it he acknowledged the difficulty many companies have in mobilizing Windows apps and assessed server-based and SDK solutions, stating that, “Organizations that use software development kits (SDKs) will have more success, but still need to choose a minimal set of applications and use the SDK solution as a bridge technology as they work toward a long-term solution of getting these apps off Windows.” He came up with two main findings for SDK-based development, which will help drive adoption in the enterprise:

  1. The SDK enabled organizations to use developers familiar with Windows development, and to utilize this skill set without having to learn to code clients for each native device.
  2. The SDK gave APIs the ability to easily call up the keyboard, camera and other mobile features as needed throughout the application, making the application act like a mobile application.

This paves the way for mobilizing more enterprise apps. However companies still need to look at the business benefits of mobilizing and supporting apps, as well as investing in tools and technologies to do so. Companies should look at both the hard and soft business cases and carefully choose apps that can help users do their jobs. He does note that current solutions are not a “game changer.” Admittedly there need to be additional capabilities like offline access to be truly mobile. This is an important first step though for companies to get their feet wetter in the enterprise mobility pool without having to significantly invest in developing mobile apps from the ground up.

If you want more information on the Citrix Mobile SDK for Windows Apps mentioned here, and in the Gartner report, here’s the link: http://community.citrix.com/display/xd/Mobile+SDK+for+Windows+Apps

Phillip Redman is currently enjoying his third month at Citrix as VP of Mobile Solutions & Strategy.