Friday, August 13, 2010

Where are the enterprise developers going in mobile?

Funambol Community Edition is used as a mobile platform inside enterprises, to sync a lot of data on mobile devices from corporate data sources (Email servers, Groupware, ERP, CRM, you name it). We have over 27,000 Funambol servers online around the word, every day. Lots of people, lots of developers. Not to brag, just to set the stage about what comes next, trying to claim I know what I am talking about (which is not always the case ;-)

For months, I had a question in my mind: where are the enterprise developers going in mobile? I mean, if you need to build a mobile app for an existing enterprise solution, which platform would you choose? Which device?

The answer, few years ago, was simple: Windows Mobile. Any app I knew in the enterprise was built on it. Rugged devices were all WinMo. Microsoft had a solid grip on the enterprise. Yes, BlackBerry has always been also big, but it is the choice mainly for managers. Not something that would give you enough reach to build a corporate app. So, WinMo was it.

Then the iPhone came. It started to trickle in the enterprise. But it was a consumer device. With a consumer model. Not enough security. Initially, not even a way to have email on it from an Exchange server. No ways to install apps ad-hoc. Enterprise developers kept doing what they were doing: they stayed with WinMo.

Then Android came. Similar consumer orientation of the iPhone, but a bit less. The first devices had a keyboard, something that was perceived as enterprise-ish. The business model looking like the old Microsoft (providing the OS) plus HW vendors. Something already seen, something easy to understand. Where Google is Microsoft. That was the beginning of 2009. Not ages ago...

Lastly, Microsoft killed WinMo in favor of a consumer OS (at MWC in February, this year). Not backward compatible. Giving up entirely on the enterprise. Just when developers started getting more comfortable about Android, while still slightly doubtful about the iPhone (do not ask me why, maybe it is just the Apple brand. Everyone in this industry knows that Steve Jobs does not give a damn about the enterprise. Enterprise developers know it, and they do not want to go for it).

Imagine the panic as a WinMo developer. Knowing you have to throw everything away and start from scratch. On a platform with zero traction (no Windows Mobile 7 device in the market...). A pure consumer platform. What would you do? If you have to start from scratch, why not looking around for a new platform, one that has already devices and traction, one that looks more enterprise-ish?

Yes, the answer to my question is Android.

Android is exploding, shipping more devices than iOS. We have passed the tipping point. If enterprise developers were thinking Android around the end of 2009, in Spring 2010 they received a confirmation from Microsoft. And now that Android is exploding, there is no turning back.

I can see it from the downloads of the Funambol Android client and SDK. The growth is spectacular, Android is winning over the enterprise developers. And there is probably very little Microsoft can do to get them back. Since Windows Mobile 7 is purely a consumer platform. I guess they do not even care... They gave it up to Android on a silver plate. Bad mistake, in my opinion.

Android is going to be the dominating mobile enterprise platform of the future. It happened so fast...