Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Does an app mean better business?

Two related stories on the BBC web site last week:
As user behaviour gravitates towards hand-held devices it's easy to see that applications to make use of these can be beneficial both inside your business (a kind of intra-app) and outside (an extra-app), especially if you have a requirement that is aided by knowing where the device is located. Such things can be as simple as a properly formatted web page read in a browser on the device but increasingly it's a dedicated piece of stand-alone code that communicates with your backend using some kind of web services protocol.

In many cases, especially internal ones, a browser-based solution will be more cost-effective, especially if you have ready access to web-type expertise. Since you probably need to call upon lower-level programming to write an app for, say, the iPhone this is more costly and tens of thousands of pounds are often bandied about, which will frighten off some smaller companies. It would be nice if easier toolkits were available, with a lower cost of entry but Apple, at least, seem to me to be discouraging such things. On the other hand the number of teenagers writing apps almost in their spare time suggests that it can't be that hard.

What are you doing? Are you having C++ apps written for you; are you coding for web browsers; or are you possibly missing out on a useful tool. Think of this; one of my clients has an inventory of hardware that they need to check against a database to verify compliance with various standards. The ability to wander around the racks of kit with an iPad or even iPhone in hand to check data and do things like correct model numbers is something that will be very useful to them. In this case I think we can use the browser method to do the job and it'll be an interesting task to work on.

Do you have any intra- or extra-apps that you produced for your business? Tell us about it.