Niche market emerges for corporate app stores

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Niche market emerges for corporate app stores

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Kangbuk Samsung Hospital’s corporate apps on this screen offer restricted use and can only be accessed by hospital staff.


Unlike Apple’s App Store or Google Play, where lists of mobile applications are publicly posted for downloading, many companies are establishing their own app stores just for their employees - and others are rushing to cash in on this new business niche.

Google said Tuesday on its blog it has established a private channel for companies to distribute internal mobile applications on Google Play. The move comes several months after KTH, a subsidiary of KT, Korea’s second-largest network service provider, launched a similar service called Appsplant in October.

“Whether you’ve built a custom expense reporting app for employees or a conference room finder, the Google Play Private Channel is designed to make your organization’s internal apps quick and easy for employees to find,” said Ellie Powers, product manager for Google Play.

Once logged in on a mobile device using the company’s e-mail account, specified employees will be open to browse private apps uploaded by their companies. This is seen as increasingly practical as office workers are able to complete more job-related tasks on their smartphones and tablet PCs.

“As more people use smart devices for work, the need for established mobile platforms where workers can find solutions to finish their work will continue to rise,” said Moon Yoon-gi, managing director at KTH’s platform business division. “Of course, businesses can distribute applications through open markets for their employees, but it may also invite unnecessary security issues.”

The idea of a private app store may sound convenient but the concept has been around for a while in various guises.

Although KTH’s new service is called an app store, it is more layered as downloaded apps have subsystems that resemble a store where more apps can be downloaded.

“Large companies already have mobile offices installed, so most don’t see any need to have an ‘app store’ of their own,” said an industry source. “However, as it is expensive to install mobile offices, smaller companies are KTH’s target buyers.”

Small- and medium-sized companies that cannot afford to invest large sums of money are expected to welcome such platforms when provided at a relatively low price.

“We add greater security to existing platforms and provide the service at a cheaper price for businesses so that their employees can enjoy a more convenient mobile work environment,” said Yim Hyun-jung, director of KTH’s public relations team.

While setting up an internal communication system online can cost up to 800 million won ($743,000), Appsplant is only about one-quarter of the price, Yim said.

At present, KTH has no local competition but numerous foreign rivals including AppNest and Apperian.

KTH estimates the Korean market for private app stores is worth 45 billion won but will expand rapidly.

After KTH launched its Appsplant service in October, it announced that Gangbuk Samsung Hospital has installed a system for internal communications among its employees.

Staffers will be shown how to install the imbedded app store, which will look similar to the App Store or Android Market, so they can search and download applications to keep records of their work.

“For maximum security, app stores like this will not be distributed on any public channels,” said Yim, adding that it currently works only on Android.

Universal systems and programs are in the process of being developed.

“It’s true that the next task is to develop a more universal system, but companies have only just started invested in mobile office systems so the whole industry is still fairly new,” said Moon Kyung-dong, director of SK C&C’s communications team.


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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