Enterprise mobile security smackdown: iOS vs. Android vs. Windows
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Windows Phone 7.5’s new app distribution program lets organizations release their own applications through the Windows Phone Marketplace, but hide them from the general public.
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Previously unavailable on Windows phones, this targeted Windows Phone app distribution option allows developers to submit apps through App Hub, an online portal for Windows Phone and Xbox 360 applications. App Hub publishes each Windows Phone app and associates a deep link to it. Organizations distribute this link to approved Windows Phone 7.5 users, who can use it to download and install the Windows Phone app from the marketplace.
This Windows Phone app distribution approach makes it easy for an organization to distribute apps to a large number of employees, regardless of their locations. But the targeted Windows Phone app distribution program is only available for Windows Phone 7.5, so if your workers are using a variety of mobile devices, it only solves a small piece of the problem. And although Windows Phone 7.5 users without the link to an app can’t find it in the marketplace, IT doesn’t have total control over who can and can’t install its apps.
Submitting Windows Phone 7.5 apps for targeted distribution
Once you’ve registered with App Hub, the program provides the tools for submitting and managing your apps. The process of submitting a Windows Phone app for targeted distribution is simple: Upload the file, provide the appropriate information (title, description, etc.), set the price and select a publish option.
There are four publish options that determine how and when your app is published after it has been certified, but only one applies to the Windows Phone app distribution program specifically: the “As soon as it’s certified, but make it hidden” option. Selecting this option tells the Windows Phone team that after the app is certified, it should be available for distribution but should not be discoverable in the Marketplace unless users connect via its specific link.
Windows Phone app distribution program management
If your app passes the certification process, it will be published and the Windows Phone team will email its link to you. You can also access the link in App Hub from the app's information page.
Once you have the link, you can distribute it to any user who you want to have access. There are no limits to the number of people who can access the app, and App Hub allows you to leave an app in the Windows Phone app distribution program for an indefinite period of time (or take it out if necessary). You can also update the app as needed, and it will automatically notify users when a new version is available.
App Hub offers several management features, including the ability to edit an application’s metadata without resubmitting the app, view performance metrics and see details about distribution and user feedback.
Windows Phone app distribution: The enterprise app store is here, sort of
The targeted app distribution program for Windows Phone 7.5 apps can be very beneficial to IT, but the downfall is that anyone who has the link to an app can install it. You can’t use devices as access control lists to prevent access by unauthorized users. That means you’ll have to handle security precautions, such as user authentication, within the app itself.
Despite these issues, the Windows Phone app distribution model is a step in the right direction. Until a system to distribute and manage apps across all mobile devices is in place, you might have to take what you can get where you can get it.