Private App Stores and Tablets: Notes from an Early Adopter

Mobile devices and apps are everywhere -- including the workplace. But while users reap benefits, IT departments struggle with risks. Cisco's AppHQ running on its Cius tablet promises a controlled environment. One of the first to test the private app store is tech reseller and consulting company CDW.

Wed, February 15, 2012

CIO — The steady influx and slow acceptance of mobile devices and apps in the workplace has liberated users once locked into Blackberrys and Windows laptops. But with this new freedom comes a burden on IT to manage and secure devices and apps.

To help ease the load on IT departments and provide them with more control, private app stores are making their way into the enterprise. An IT group can either build or outsource the development of native apps and place them in a private app store where they can be managed by the IT group.

CDW, an electronics reseller and tech consultant services company, is in the early days of deploying a private app store using Cisco's new AppHQ feature and Cius tablets to clamp down on mobile app sprawl within the organization.

AppHQ running on a Cisco Cius tablet.

Previously, to dole out access to applications, CDW had been using a Web server through which users could access a folder after they were granted permissions to download apps—a cumbersome process, says Ken Snyder, a technology solutions manager at CDW.

"With AppHQ, an IT manager can create a custom app, secure it and click an upload box, and it's up and live," says Snyder. "We can then give access to whichever users need the app."

AppHQ, though very functional, is not exactly flexible as it is available only on Cisco's Android-based Cius, a tablet designed for business use that combines voice, video, collaboration and virtualization capabilities. The Cius has been available since July 2011. CDW currently has 30 Cius tablets in use by its field consultants across the country.

AppHQ comes in two flavors:

The default AppHQ store comes preinstalled on the Cius and contains almost of the apps from the regular Android market. However, every app in AppHQ must first be validated by Cisco for app functionality and security risks such as malware, hidden binaries, malicious URLs and permissions. IT managers decide if users can get access to the Android Market on the Cius or just Cisco's AppHQ - and that can be done on device-by-device basis. For example, the CEO would get different permissions than a sales associate.

If a company, like CDW, wants to control its app environment even further it can choose AppHQ Manager. This feature lets IT managers cherry-pick apps -- custom-made or public -- that are of specific interest to the business. This is, essentially, a "private store." Unlike AppHQ, AppHQ Manager is fee-based (Actual prices are established by the reseller, but US list price is $10,000 for the first 200 users, and $5,000 for every 100 users thereafter). AppHQ Manager also provides the capability to restrict users to just using the private store.

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