The numbers are huge: 1,000,000 apps on the Apple store was passed in late 2013, with over 60 billion individual apps downloaded.

There are 1.1 million Android apps available, along with 160,000 or so Windows Phone apps. Brian Runciman MBCS looks at the current app market and implications for the enterprise, developers, security pros and more.

Mobile apps are everywhere: making consumers’ lives easier, offering new career paths to developers, offering new ways for enterprises to interact with customers and suppliers and bringing complexity to the IT landscape for security experts. The impact off the app is huge so - how to deal with it?

The thriving app industry is one that has a huge impact on the enterprise, even if at first glance it looks like a mainly consumer phenomenon.

As apps are so simple to use they have invaded our lives exceptionally quickly. They are approaching the intuitive software the industry has long promised and so will continue to impact the enterprise world whether those involved with corporate governance, IT and mobile support like it or not.

The experience that people have with apps - their intuitiveness, clean design and responsiveness - affects how they want to interact with IT systems in the workplace.

For developers there are huge opportunities. Traditionally powerful vendors of enterprise software like SAP and Oracle don’t dominate in the mobile app market. Small agile organisations with a good idea can make a big impact. And this, as Edward Hadley points out in a blog post for app platform supplier, means ‘the notion of the single, monolithic system is losing favour in the enterprise.

‘While a lot of those systems will continue to be used for managing core processes behind the scenes, business users today are bringing this app mentality into the enterprise with multiple, lightweight apps that address specific needs - most of which can’t be addressed with packaged applications.’

All this means that CIOs and IT directors need to consider the impact of apps on their enterprise application strategies and end user expectations; developers have a lot of careers options, marketers have new ways to get to their markets and any number of industries will undergo interesting and disruptive change.

Defining apps

The definition of ‘app’ is not as straightforward as it first appears. calls an app ‘a self-contained program or piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose; an application, especially as downloaded by a user to a mobile device.’

So an app is simply a piece of software that does something other than run the machine it’s on - something of use to a user beyond the system software or the operating system itself. But as the latter half of the definition indicates the meaning has morphed to something more specific in the consumer world. Although any IT person knows that ‘apps’ are more than just shiny small programs on a mobile device, common usage has made that almost a default meaning.

The phrase ‘killer app,’ which we can define as an exceptionally useful piece of software that was unique to a platform, harks back to a more traditional definition.

In 2011 when Apple brought a case against Amazon over the use of the phrase ‘App Store’ it wasn’t just the use of the word ‘store’ that was the problem. Apple knew how consumers in general defined ‘app’.

Apps of course can run on the internet via a browser, on your desktop or laptop computer or on a phone or other electronic device. Web apps are typically written with HTML, JavaScript or other web-native technologies. Mobile apps, which come in a huge variety, are authored in C, C++, Javascript, HTML5 and more.

The functionality of mobile apps increases with mobile device capabilities –now including software with map functionality, using WiFi to improve geolocation services; utilising orientation via the gyroscope; near-field chips; different touch combinations; linking in with cloud storage and more.