The demand for mobile applications designed specifically for enterprise use is continuing to grow and we are now seeing mobile devices and their applications relevant to every type of business activity. Businesses demand more from their devices – enterprise mobility extends far beyond accessing your emails to include complex processes like processing orders, invoicing customers and checking stock availability from handsets. Developers now have the challenge of developing and integrating more business focused applications and an ever-more sophisticated raft of functions.

The difficulty for developers is that there is still a large degree of fragmentation in the market and uncertainty around which players will dominate the mobile space and, therefore, where the best commercial opportunities will come from. Can developers or ISVs that need to mobilise their existing applications take the risk of second guessing the future and making decisions now, based on what may happen in the next few years? Equally, can those tasked with enabling enterprise mobility in-house afford to take a leap of faith and make decisions today when the market remains so uncertain?

This riskiness is underlined by the market figures. As recent stats from You Gov revealed, Android penetration in the UK has now overtaken Apple iPhone for the first time – with a 28 percent market share. Certainly all the market evidence suggests that Android will continue to lead the mobile market as a whole, but what does this mean for the enterprise? It would seem there is less clarity here, according to a recent survey by Forrester with IT decision makers and developers, which revealed that Apple’s iPhone is the most popular platform, followed by Android.

To add a further layer of complexity for developers, in the future enterprises may well need their applications to work both on smartphones and on tablets. Whilst Apple may be the first choice for the tablet market for at least the next two to three years, there are new entrants emerging such as the RIM PlayBook which could shake things up in this market.

For enterprises, selecting the right development platform is of course fundamental to the success of ‘going mobile’ but this also carries with it a large degree of risk. Investment in a new mobile platform in an enterprise environment represents a significant outlay and, as we know, the reality is that devices and platforms may be chosen not for technological merits but may simply be selected based on cost issues or even the personal preferences of the purchaser or CEO.

This all adds up to a heady mix of challenges. However, I’d argue that developers don’t necessarily have to make the ‘all or nothing’ kinds of choices now and there are ways they can future-proof their decisions.  New approaches such as application platforms which allow developers to create applications, independent of the underlying platform, could take away this risk and have the added commercial benefit of reducing development time. If the watchwords for developers are to be prepared for change, they need to ensure an ‘anything’ to ‘any device’ approach as the challenges are only going to intensify in the future.

David Akka, Managing Director, Magic Software (UK)

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members