As companies develop more mobile apps, they need an organized way to distribute them and track usage. Salesforce announced a product today called AppExchange Store Builder that gives companies what they need: their very own AppExchange.
That’s right, Salesforce has packaged up the software they used to create AppExchange, the place where Salesforce customers and partners can distribute their apps. The idea behind this tool is to give customers a way to launch their own corporate app stores. They say that customers have been asking for this capability and they are simply giving the people what they want.
Salesforce would have you believe they’re the only ones out there doing this on an enterprise level, but that’s not the case. In fact, Brian Katz, who is director, head of end user experience and innovation at Sanofi, says what Salesforce has put together even has a category called Mobile Application Management (MAM). He says lots of companies are competing in this market including Apperian, Mokana, Bluebox, SAP, AirWatch, MobileIron and others.
AppExchange Store Builder lets customers configure an AppExchange template, giving them the ability to customize the store and control the look and feel. They can change the colors, logo and general language and branding to meet their company needs. They can even add a Chatter tab to give visitors a place talk about the app.
They can also stock the store with customized apps they build themselves or they can include commercial apps such as Evernote or Salesforce.com. The customized AppExchange operates in exactly the same way as the one on the Salesforce.com website. Users can access these app stores from the web or a mobile device and the display adjusts automatically based on screen size just as would expect. To install, an app users simply select one from the store front, read a description and then click to install.
There are a couple of interesting aspects to this announcement. First of all, Salesforce is taking a tool that up until now has been an in-house product and they are packaging it and selling it as a commercial product. What’s more, they are letting customers put any apps they want into their customized AppExchange. They don’t have to be built with Salesforce’s app development tools, letting customers use whatever tools they wish to build their company apps.
Store administrators can track usage and popularity using the built-in analytics dashboard.
Salesforce envisions this as more than an internally facing tool though, and could see customers setting up app stores for externally facing situations. For instance, if they have a set of apps they want to share with a limited audience, and they don’t want to put them in public app stores. Customers even have the option of plugging in payment options, if they were inclined to monetize their apps and wanted to do this outside the public app store purview.
Pricing is free for users with a Salesforce license, and starts at $5 per user per month for users that don’t have a Salesforce license.
As companies increase their mobile presence, they need a place to organize these apps and Salesforce wants to give it to them, but it’s worth noting they’ll be competing for customers in a crowded market –and they’re late to the game.