Evaluating custom mobile app solutions for your business? Consider Connectivity, Push, Management, and Standards-based Development

Feature

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When evaluating solutions to enable your business with mobile applications that go far beyond email, calendar, and PIM, the best practice is to ensure you are making the most of what’s available. I’ve worked in this post to establish a benchmark of how BlackBerry solutions can enable business collaboration and enterprise applications with four key elements.

Connectivity

Although this sounds pretty basic, it’s really the core of what’s needed to get things done. When leveraging the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution, this aspect is built in from the ground up and really cannot be any easier. With a service called MDS-CS, you have that built-in “VPN-Like” connection to allow you easy access to the secure data stored behind the firewall. This is a key differentiator, as without this out-of-the-box connectivity behind the firewall, complex and potentially costly solutions would need to be created in order to achieve secure access to corporate data.

Push

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Many of us are already familiar with the term “Push”. As a brief primer, push is a service that sends data to a device without the device having to send a request for that data. This is why you don’t have to manually check your email – new messages simply appear the moment that they arrive. It’s a great protocol for delivering information in real time and keeping you connected. But the story doesn’t end here – let’s look at what can be accomplished with Push technology in a business setting.

First and foremost, you have the ability to push data to an app and even notify the end user when something has arrived. Secondly, you can push that information directly to the BlackBerry Hub in BlackBerry 10. Consider how a business user works and the fact that they’re constantly in their inbox. When they wake up in the morning, they go to their inbox; before they go to bed, they are in their inbox. It follows, then, that your business applications should also have a presence here. For example, let’s say that you want to send your CEO the daily sales reports or business intelligence data. Put it right where they’ll be: the inbox! With the invocation framework introduced in BlackBerry 10 you can have them tap on the notification in their inbox and thereby invoke your app.

Secondly, Push also solves the issue that apps need to work offline. Executives often use their BlackBerry smartphones on flights and trips all around the world. Many “send” messages while in transit, and when they land their messages are sent without them even having to lift a finger. Your applications can work the same way; once you build into the workflow a system that can push down the requests to their devices, the requests will be waiting for them until your users have the downtime to go through and take action. They will absolutely love you if you make them more productive on the airplane, and especially if you design it so they do not need to go back to their PC to approve or interact with the information.

Management

Beyond building your enterprise app, it’s important to consider its deployment within your organization. With BlackBerry 10 we’ve created the App World for Work, which gives you the ability to host your confidential application behind the firewall, accessible only to employees within your business. This is enabled as soon as the device is activated against BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10, when the BlackBerry Balance feature comes alive during device activation. You can then make it available through App World for Work and the employees can download it, or you can make it a mandatory application which will then automatically be pushed to employee devices. Employees also have the ability to manage available upgrades within App World for Work to ensure that the latest maintenance releases and enhancements are available.

If you’re building applications which you’re looking to sell to enterprise customers, you can either provide them the application to host in their environment or you can submit your application to BlackBerry App World and simply recommend that your customers flag the application for work. Administrators can select publicly available apps from BlackBerry App World, which makes the application appear in App World for Work as a recommended download for employees, manageable like any other internal applications.

Standards-based Development

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Let’s face it, when building applications for mobile devices there are many different tools and languages available, and it can be daunting to make a selection. Even some of the MDM providers who try to enable enterprise applications require you to learn their tools in order to build, manage, and secure mobile applications. With the security elements already built into the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution, all that is left to do is build the app. We’ve made it easier than ever by supporting standards-based development. First with HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, you can write and in many cases reuse samples of code which can then be compiled with our BlackBerry WebWorks tool to create a BlackBerry app. Aside from being simple to build, the beauty of the BlackBerry WebWorks development solution is that it supports BlackBerry 6 and BlackBerry 7 OS, BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, and the upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform. You can also go really deep to create customized extensions that leverage the core of the BlackBerry OS and hardware. We’ve got loads of samples for you to check out on http://developer.blackberry.com/

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If you go a step further and would like to develop using our Native Software Development Kit, the core of the language is C++. Combined with our Cascades tool, you can build some serious applications that not only increase productivity at your company, but have a beautiful interface.

When you’re evaluating solutions to solve your business problems, take a look at Connectivity, Push, Management, and Standards-based Development to see how they can help you in your quest for designing and implementing functional and intuitive business apps. The Enterprise Partnerships team here at RIM is ready to help!

About Gregg Ostrowski

Since joining Research in Motion in 2001 Gregg has always been focused on the Enterprise. While running the in field Technical Account staff he also ran the BlackBerry Innovation Forum in North America. Currently Gregg is the Senior Director, Enterprise Developer Partnerships focusing on enterprise developer and "behind the firewall" applications. In his spare time he spends time with his wife and daughter as well as riding his Appaloosa.

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