Appirio's just released a software package that lets enterprise customers put together an iPad or iPhone app almost on a click-and-drag basis. The apps are hooked together using Salesforce.com's cloud-based systems, and pushed out "live" to business's iPad users.
Sounds simple, but Appirio's new package comes with huge promises, too. It allows developers with almost no iOS experience to build an app, meaning they could even be company executives rather than coders. Its home base in the cloud means it won't hog up company hard drive space, either. As founder Narinder Singh tells Fast Company, it's really hard today for businesses to put together their own apps, since "you want the experience of a native app that feels like Angry Birds but you don't have the experience to build it yourself." Companies find themselves using in-house coder teams, but that's not necessarily speedy or cheap.
Hence the new package, which basically lets firms quickly strap together a native iPad or iPhone app to meet a particular business need, distribute it to their staff, and have them "updated in real time, in the field without needing to redeploy," Singh says. And unlike a web-app solution, mobile apps can allow companies to manage apps in a much more centralized, controlled way, and leverage the extra powers a native app on an iPad and iPhone can have compared to a more limited web app—including ease of use, since they use all the familiar input methods used by iOS. To speed up the app-building process, the company's even put together a suite of template apps, including systems like field surveys, location-based apps, time and action-tracking apps, and search and display apps.
This all sounds pretty clever, and it's certainly tapping into two huge movements at the moment that could really change how business is conducted: Cloud computing (spotlighted by Apple's recent reveal of iCloud) and app-enhanced working.
Appirio's Kevin Dodson, Senior Consultant of the mobile division, highlighted previous clients RehabCare—a large entity that Appirio built a cloud-based app for that significantly sped-up treatments delivered to patients undergoing rehabilitation. The idea was to use mobile products to speed up its treatments, saving time in the treatment room because information can be shared while a patient's under active therapy for an injury (important when time with the medic is charged by the minute), and chose iPads and iPhones. Appirio developed a custom app suite for them, but with the company's new code, an enterprise client could build their own solution like this in hours.
The huge app store-like business app ecosystem is a whole other way that businesses can release apps to their staff using approved Apple techniques—a kind of shadow App Store, that operates privately inside companies.
With iOS devices becoming more ubiquitous, and with increasing adoption in the workplace (partly due to demand from users who have experience with their privately owned iPads and iPhones) this kind of quick-build app is likely to transform how many aspects of business are carried out. Just as iPads and iPhones enable new types of working—that save time and effort and enable involvement of remote parties in ways that hadn't been possible before (picture doctors making quick consults with distant medical experts). Plus it taps into Apple's plan to "buy the future."