The Enterprise App Awards

From games like Angry Birds to apps that extend global ERP solutions to smartphones or tablets, there can be a fine line between adding value and productivity to an enterprise and subtracting it and, through security issues, putting an entire enterprise at increased risk. As always, the primary quality-control gateway for an enterprise will more often than not be the VAR, the trusted local technology adviser.

This year, with disruption from the new mobile platforms continuing unabated, it’s been challenging to sort out the good from the not-so-good in the world of mobile apps and find value for VARs to deliver. So CRN editors decided to set out on a search for the best mobile apps for the enterprise. We unveiled our first Enterprise App Awards contest and opened the door for nominations.

Some 52 companies found themselves and their apps nominated this year for the Enterprise App Awards. Of those, editors selected three winners, based on which apps did the best job of extending the power of enterprise applications to the new mobile platforms. The CRN Test Center handed out the awards at our NexTI conference earlier this month in Las Vegas.

While we’ve examined hundreds of apps for all aspects of IT over the past several months, true, hardened enterprise-quality solutions for the mobile platforms have had a tendency to stand out. And the apps we’ve selected for these awards stand out even among those.

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Citrix Receiver

One of the first, strong enterprise apps we went to in our demonstration of the power of the iPhone and iPad to mobility was the Citrix Receiver app. Here, Citrix has driven the ability to provide business applications from the enterprise to any user on any device, provide enterprise-level security and provide a direct connection between iPhones, Android devices, BlackBerries and iPads, for example, right to the desktop.

Citrix was founded in 1989 and has reinvented itself several times, becoming one of the information technology industry’s leaders in virtualization and system management. Shortly after Apple launched its first iPhone product in 2007, Citrix followed up with an app that could provide remote desktop functionality for Windows machines onto the then-new smartphone platform. The company has continued development in this space and, shortly after Apple launched its first iPads, made its Citrix Receiver app available there, as well. Today, the app also runs on the Android operating system.

As IT continues to walk a fine line between enterprise support for smartphones and tablets based on iOS and Android, Citrix’s technology is there to help bridge the gap.

NEXT: Digium Switchvox Mobile

Digium Switchvox Mobile

The CRN Test Center has long liked the straightforward yet robust solutions we’ve seen from Digium -- and, in particular, its valuable contributions to the Asterisk open source community. With the groundswell of movement in the market to mobile devices, we were curious to see how providers of VoIP-based technologies would respond, and Digium was right there out in front of the pack. We liked Digium’s Switchvox Mobile app for its ability to extend its solution from the enterprise to iPhones, Android devices and BlackBerries, including its innovative Switchboard interactive dashboard. Enabling customers to seamlessly bring their enterprise communications with them -- in the palm of their hands -- is a strong example of leveraging the mobility revolution.

The technical requirements for Switchvox Mobile are straightforward as well. The mobile solution requires an installation of Switchvox SMB 23120 or later, network access, devices running Android 2.1 or later, iPhone OS 3.0 or later, or BlackBerry Device Software 4.2.1 or later. Once it’s installed, Switchvox Mobile essentially gives you all the key functionality on your smartphone that’d you’d have in your office from Digium: the ability to make calls from your work number, to check voice mail, to set rules, to manage greetings and access the company directory. And it’s all done with a clear and easy way to manage the mobile interface.

Digium’s response to the new mobile platforms with Switchvox Mobile shows that enterprise solutions can have a clear path to Android, iOS or BlackBerry -- and the move to extend those solutions can have wide-ranging implications for value delivery and solution “stickiness.”

NEXT: Siemens’ OpenScape Mobile

Siemens’ OpenScape Mobile

OpenScape Mobile was built to leverage all the nuances of the new mobile platforms -- including gestures and interfaces -- while extending Siemens’ Enterprise Communications’ SIP-based VoIP capabilities. Here, a lot of attention to detail was paid, particularly when it comes to ease of use.

OpenScape Mobile works with Siemens’ OpenScape Voice communications, and its first release supports both Android and Apple’s iOS mobile operating platforms.

To some, Siemens Enterprise Communications may qualify as a start-up. It began in 2008 as a joint venture between The Gores Group and Siemens AG. Based in Reston, Va., it now focuses on driving unified communications solutions based on open standards; it’s also part of a joint venture with Enterasys Networks.

There were a number of features to OpenScape Mobile that we believed were worthy of the Enterprise App Award, including seamless call handover between desk phone, Wi-Fi network and cell phone, as well as support for HD audio over Wi-Fi. A big step toward convincing enterprises of the value of the new mobile platforms will be demonstration of the robust performance and functionality; with OpenScape Mobile, it’s clear that the big step is at or near reality.

Citrix, Digium and Siemens Enterprise Communications have set the bar for technology vendors that partner with the channel when it comes to driving value into mobile solutions. They each have demonstrated that putting technology onto an iPhone or a Droid, for example, doesn’t mean there needs to be compromises in functionality, performance, form or security.

In the coming months and quarters, and over the next year, we expect many more enterprise mobility solutions to be driven by both large and small vendors -- including vendors that haven’t even yet gone into business. In fact, in a UBM Channel survey of almost 400 solution providers, conducted earlier this year, more than four in 10 solution providers said they expect to be providing iPads in customer engagements in the next two years, with more than six in 10 expecting to provide tablets from other platforms to customers by 2013.

So with most of the channel ready to take aim at enterprise mobility solutions, vendors would be wise to follow the lead of Citrix, Digium and Siemens Enterprise Communications.