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Are enterprise applications viable on Apple Watch?

With enterprise application delivery today, it’s go small or go home.

As more employees want to access corporate data on their personal devices, companies are looking to provide critical business applications on those devices. But delivering a traditional desktop application to a mobile device is no easy feat. Smartphones and tablets are inherently smaller than PC screens, and network connectivity can be questionable when streaming an intensive app to those endpoints – not to mention the frustration of pinching and swiping and hitting tiny dropdowns that were never meant to be used on a handheld.

Application refactoring technology helps overcome some of those challenges by offering a way to transform desktop applications into mobile-friendly versions. But mobile doesn’t just mean smartphones and tablets anymore. An interesting demo at this week’s Citrix Synergy conference in Orlando got me thinking: What about delivering these apps to a smartwatch?

A smartwatch’s screen is even smaller than that of a smartphone or tablet, and it’s still unclear what the enterprise use cases might be for wearable technology. But the recently released Apple Watch has taken the IT world by storm, and if enterprises someday do want to deploy and manage these devices for employees, it’s likely that they’ll want the Watch to support a range of enterprise-grade applications.

Because of the small surface area of wearables, a key challenge is determining exactly what content to deliver in a given application.

“With a wearable, it’s really important that all the information you get – because it’s such a small amount of information – be the right specific information, at the right time,” said Jonathan Kaplan, CTO of application transformation vendor PowWow Mobile. “We want to deliver the right information so you’re getting the best use of the small screen.”

PowWow Mobile announced this week that its Transformation Engine would now extend to Apple Watch apps. In fact, the company says there are no limits to the enterprise applications it can transform into fully functional mobile apps for use on the Apple Watch. With the PowWow Challenge, organizations can enter their most complex applications and the vendor will return a mobilized app in 10 days or less.

Developing the technology for use on Apple Watch apps was more of a business challenge than a technical one, said CEO Andrew Cohen.

“What’s the right business case for people to use wearable devices?” he said. “People want to use the Watch when they don’t want to have to pull out their phones.”

That use case applies most often for employees out in the field who need instant, hands-free data – a trader who needs continuously updated stock information at a glance, for example, Cohen said.

The benefit of app refactoring technology like PowWow’s is that users can pick and choose elements of the application they want to present, but that becomes more difficult with Apple Watch apps, said Eric Klein, director of mobile software at VDC Research.

“For a complex enterprise application, it’s hard because it’s not really possible to pick and choose the parts of the application that are important, by design,” he said. “That’s the challenge.”

Instead, Klein sees an opportunity for more basic, lightweight apps that are workflow-oriented to be used on wearable devices.

Ultimately, the goal is to make application access easy for both IT and the end users.

“Users don’t want to open multiple things; they don’t want to think about anything,” Cohen said.

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