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AppConfig Community catches on with enterprise mobile app developers

More developers have bought into AppConfig's common mobile application management features so they can target a larger share of the EMM market. But not all vendors are on board.

An increasing number of mobile developers are building enterprise apps designed to work with multiple management products.

The AppConfig Community, an industry group that promotes the use of common mobile application management (MAM) features, now counts 1,400 individual developers and 90 independent software vendors (ISVs) as members. That's up from 160 and 60, respectively, from when the organization formed last year. AppConfig makes it much easier for developers to support multiple enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors, said Rajan Kapoor, head of data security at Dropbox, an ISV member.

"For a long time, Dropbox heard from customers that we needed to support mobility management software to provision Dropbox on devices," Kapoor said. "We were hesitant around who to support and who not to support, but along comes AppConfig ... and it made sense for us."

AppConfig sets the standard

Traditionally, mobile developers had to create different versions of the same app for each vendor whose MAM software they supported. This process took time and effort, and it forced enterprise mobile app developers to pick and choose which vendors they wanted to work with. With AppConfig, which relies on the built-in MAM features in Apple iOS and Google Android, a developer can use one SDK and build one app that works with the MAM software of 19 vendors.

If you can integrate with most EMM platforms … [AppConfig] makes a ton of sense.
Eric Kleindirector of mobile software, VDC Research Group

Prior to joining AppConfig, Dropbox spent a lot of time examining which vendors had the largest EMM market share -- and which could have the largest market share in the future -- to decide which products to support, Kapoor said. AppConfig allows Dropbox to support more vendors than it could have otherwise, which means there's a larger market of potential customers.

"Developers will always follow the money," said Eric Klein, director of mobile software at VDC Research Group in Natick, Mass. "If you can integrate with most EMM platforms ... [AppConfig] makes a ton of sense."

AppConfig missing two big names

The AppConfig Community started with VMware AirWatch, MobileIron, IBM and Jamf, later adding other notable EMM providers, including SAP and BlackBerry. But two big names are missing: Citrix and Microsoft.

"AppConfig in general came about with great promise," said Jack Gold, principal and founder of J. Gold Associates, a mobile analyst firm in Northborough, Mass. "The problem is, you have people like Microsoft who basically say, 'We don't buy into it,' so it is not universally supported."

Dropbox, for instance, doesn't support Microsoft Intune or Citrix XenMobile because it would require an extra investment to build separate versions of its app for those products, Kapoor said.

AppConfig said it would welcome Microsoft as a member. Microsoft declined to comment.

Citrix was close to joining AppConfig a year ago but instead announced a revamped partnership with Microsoft.

"[AppConfig] turned into kind of a non-event from what I see," said Kirill Tatarinov, CEO of Citrix.

Citrix is not actively opposed to AppConfig, but the company does not want to focus on the type of device-level management that AppConfig promotes, Tatarinov said. Plus, Microsoft and Citrix are close allies, with a focus on managing Office 365 mobile apps.

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