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Is the 'app store' concept the future of enterprise app deployment?

New virtualization technologies are bringing Apple's iPhone App Store concept to the enterprise. But is it a good idea?

One of the great things about Apple's iPhone is the App Store, an online marketplace where users can browse, purchase and install applications to their iPhones and iPods. And unlike Windows applications, which traditionally include complex installation routines and compatibility issues, these App Store apps just work: The user clicks the app, the app installs itself and that's that.

Imagine if the same was possible with corporate applications.

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 Right now, IT departments have to push apps out to users. In other words, IT decides the apps users get instead of users deciding for themselves. Sure, you can manage apps by group, but then what? Do you deploy the app to every user in that group? What about all the users who don't need that app? Why clog up their systems and waste application licenses?

The concept of a corporate app store -- where users would self-select the applications they need -- is certainly not new. But what is new is the fact that there are all sorts of virtualization technologies that allow us to run apps on client desktops without having to install them first. This ensures that different apps don't conflict with one another.

There are now many flavors of application virtualization: Microsoft App-V, Citrix XenApp, VMware ThinApp, Symantec Workspace Virtualization and InstallFree -- the list goes on. What's important is that these products are available and that they enable organizations to deploy applications as easily as making a click.

With these various app-virtualization technologies, companies that want to deploy enterprise app stores can.

Citrix recently released a product called Dazzle, which is an iTunes-like desktop application that lets users browse and select their own apps. (OK, it's a very "iTunes-like" application. In fact, at first glance you might think it is iTunes, except with Windows apps instead of music albums.) Dazzle also hooks into Citrix Workflow Studio, which lets companies build entire workflows -- approval and chargeback, etc. -- into the process.

Login Consultants spin-off Immidio has a product called AppScriber, a simple app store for enterprises that presents Citrix, Microsoft App-V and traditional applications side-by-side on a webpage.

There's even a rumor that Google is planning to launch an app store for businesses where application publishers could get a share of revenue from people who install their apps.

Like virtual desktops, an app store could be run by a publicly available external provider -- like Apple or Google -- or it could be run internally by a company's IT department. One thing's for certain: As users get more comfortable with the concept of an app store in their personal lives, they'll become more comfortable with the concept in their work lives. And as IT strives to simplify user management and as more users embrace the BYOPC model, the app store concept is certain to gain popularity in the corporate world.

Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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