Hungry for iPhone business apps

Rachael King
11 May 2009
00:00

David Lin is traveling lighter for business lately. Ever since the software marketing exec bought an iPod Touch, he\'s often able to leave his notebook computer behind. \'My goal is to replace the laptop,\' says Lin, vice-president for marketing at Denali Software, makers of electronic design-automation software.

He uses the device for such general tasks as checking e-mail and surfing the Internet. But when it comes to software apps that help users carry out specific business-related jobs"”say, joining Web conferences"”Lin has downloaded only a handful. And he hasn\'t paid a penny for any of them. However, \'I would absolutely pay for a business app that made sense,\' Lin says.

Trouble is, there still aren\'t that many, even as Apple\'s iPhone and iPod Touch gain wider acceptance in workplaces. And when business users choose from those that are available, like Lin, they gravitate toward free software.

Although iPhone and iPod Touch users have downloaded more than 1 billion apps through Apple\'s iTunes App Store, it\'s not clear if business apps will ever come close to the popularity of games or other categories. At a time when more consumers are bringing iPhones into the office, it doesn\'t appear they\'re bringing many business apps with them. In March, Web analytics firm Compete.com surveyed 800 smartphone owners, including 102 iPhone users. About 79% of the iPhone owners downloaded games; 25% downloaded business apps. Of the approximately 35,000 apps available through the iTunes App Store, only about 1,600 are aimed at businesses.

Citrix Systems (CTXS) is one of the more recent business software companies to design an iPhone app. On Mar. 25 the company released an app called Citrix Receiver Lite that gives users access to Microsoft (MSFT) Windows applications and documents via iPhones. A more complete version is expected this quarter. Last year, Citrix weighed whether to create an iPhone app at all. \'We had an internal dilemma,\' says Chris Fleck, vice-president for solutions development at Citrix. \'Do we put resources on this, considering it\'s a consumer device‾\' So, Citrix wrote a blog post on its Web site asking if customers wanted to run Windows applications on the iPhone. That single post drew 140,000-plus views and received more than 200 comments. \'The feedback we got was loud and clear,\' Fleck says. It wasn\'t just from IT customers but also from business users talking about the ways they wanted to use their iPhones at work.

Package tracking and voice recording

Of the business apps that are available, free ones do best. As of May 3, 18 of the 20 most popular business apps were free. On the list: FedEx (FDX) Mobile for tracking packages. Nine of the top 20 paid business applications were voice recorders. One of the most popular business apps, called Recorder by Retronyms, sold about 300,000 apps for 99¢ apiece between July 2008 and April 2009. \'The iPhone didn\'t have a built-in voice recorder, and we knew other phones did, so it was a hole in the phone that we could fill,\' says Zach Saul, co-founder of Retronyms.

Other apps in the store are free to download to the iPhone but require licensing of software or services to be able to use them. Oracle (ORCL) offers six different iPhone apps that do everything from make sales forecasts to help companies better organize data. All six require licenses to various Oracle software packages.

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