Will Cloud-based Mobile Enterprise Apps Ever Catch On?

[qi:gigaom_icon_mobile] While a good number of consumer mobile applications have tapped into the cloud, so far, only a handful of enterprise mobile applications have done the same. And the members of a panel of VCs at a “Mobilize the Cloud” event earlier this week at Google said they don’t think enterprise apps for mobiles will catch up any time soon. In fact, some think they never will.

The panelists agreed that developers face a set of design hurdles when it comes to developing enterprise cloud-based mobile applications, such as addressing security concerns and ensuring the availability of data and consistent performance. Addressing these challenges is expensive for developers, especially young startups, which is one of the major reasons why only a small number of enterprise mobile apps — from the likes of Salesforce.com, Workday and Rackspace — are available. Venrock’s Dev Khare, who prior to joining the VC firm co-founded mobile application software company Covigo, warned startups that the return on investment for mobile applications remains soft and that the systems integration work for building custom enterprise applications has low margins. In light of the cost involved, there’s really no benefit to be had for small companies by building enterprise applications, Khare said.

It’s not all doom and gloom on the enterprise side, however. Greylock Partners’ David Thacker believes that enterprise mobile apps have a chance to innovate with location-based services. He didn’t give any examples, but some possible options would be vehicle fleet tracking or inventory management. But with enterprise mobile applications rolling out at a sluggish pace, who knows when these LBS offerings will hit the market.

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