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BlackBerry, iPhone App Stores Worlds Apart

Apple's and RIM's divergent approaches to their online software stores are consistent with their overall business-market strategies.

It's been almost a week since Research In Motion opened up its BlackBerry App World, and a clear distinction has emerged between it and the iPhone online store: Apple offers more enterprise software apps for the iPhone than RIM does for the BlackBerry.

In fact, don't be surprised to see more mobile versions of corporate software applications pop up on the iPhone App Store that won't ever appear on BlackBerry App World.

How can that be, since the BlackBerry is traditionally a corporate device and the iPhone comes from the consumer world? The answer is that RIM and Apple have taken very different approaches to the distribution of enterprise software for their smartphones.

Apple requires that enterprise software companies comply closely with its iPhone developers' kit, and if it approves of the finished mobile app, it puts it up on the App Store. This is the only distribution channel Apple allows for iPhone native apps. (Other companies, such as Information Builders, NetSuite, and SAP have avoided the SDK kit requirement and distribution limitation by building Web-based apps that work on the iPhone. But they aren't allowed to sell them on the App Store.)

Enterprise software companies that have posted apps on the iPhone App Store include ActiveStrategy, Excitor, Omniture, Oracle,, and Workday. Those with iPhone apps in the works include SAS Institute and QlikTech.

But some of those App Store offerings won't work unless iPhone users get their companies' IT departments involved. Oracle, for example, offers an app that lets managers view business-performance data on iPhone that's in their companies' Oracle BI systems, but getting access to those systems requires IT to install a connector at a cost of several thousand dollars or more.

On the new BlackBerry App World, however, you won't find any applications that require a BlackBerry user's IT department to get involved, said Tyler Lessard, RIM's director of ISV alliances.

"Our applications that fall into the business productivity area are more focused on the ability for users to download and just start using them, rather than have to 'back-end' into a system," Lessard explained.

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