Apps as a Service – Moving Mobile to the Cloud

Mobile News Jerry Lieveld 5 Jun 2014

There’s a paradigm shift taking place in the way mobile apps are sold, built and deployed. Apps are moving to the cloud and a new business model for deploying them is emerging that is a much closer match to cloud services than traditional mobile app development and deployment. Apps as a Service have arrived.

Apps as a Service Defined

So what’s the difference? AaaS (let’s get the acronym joke out of the way early here!) are built, published and managed in the cloud. The deliverable might be a native or HTML5 web app, but the process of creating and deploying the app is the same.

AaaS are built with cloud tools and often use both cloud-based and on-device simulators to help the app builder view and test the app prior to deployment. In most cases, the app is built “code-free” or “code-lite” using some form of object-oriented design process that abstracts most, if not all of the coding from the builder.

Once complete, the app is packaged for the target destination by the platform either as completely native code or, in some cases, using a hybrid wrapper (like PhoneGap creates). The app is then published from the cloud by the client with their own credentials and with no need to understand complex programming languages.

After deployment, the app builder can use the cloud CMS to store, manage and update the app content remotely, deliver push notifications and track analytics.

There’s no source code involved and the apps are often paid for in a typical cloud subscription model, monthly or annually. The client stops paying for the app when they no longer deem it valuable to them or their audience. By leveraging the cloud platform, upfront and long-term app costs are often dramatically reduced.

Benefits: Cost Reduction & More Apps

AaaS, when deployed on the right platform, allow app builders to reduce costs in a variety of ways. A good platform allows sophisticated non-programmers to build completely custom, complex apps without having to outsource the project. The builder can assemble important app components in some cases in minutes vs. hours and days using native programming languages.

And for those clients that do not have the chops to take on the platform and app design themselves, they can often get the app built for less by agencies and resellers that use the same cloud platform to build their apps, since it also can dramatically reduce their time to market and the costs associated with projects.

Mobile, cross-platform apps typically cost companies $10k-$100k+, depending on the complexity of the project. By leveraging componentized technology in the cloud, these costs can be reduced 50-75% in many cases.

There are 650M websites in the world. There are only about 2.5M mobile apps and 1.5M app developers. Most desktop websites are desperately seeking a mobile complement. In order to address this massive market, deployment costs have to be driven down and more “WiX”-like mobile app builders have to be brought into the mix. AaaS provides an opportunity here for a new cottage app building industry that focuses more on mobile app website complements than mobile app “products”.

Which Markets are Best Served by Apps as a Service?

Small businesses that have avoided the high costs of creating a proper mobile presence. This may include any business that benefits from having a presence when their target audience in on the go. Restaurants, web shops, entertainers, sports organizations, schools, salons, conferences, realtors and auto dealers are few that come to mind. But really, who does not need a mobile presence today?

A better question probably is “who doesn’t benefit from the AaaS model?” To date, very large enterprises have not embraced the model. Many feel “naked” without having their app’s source code available to modify or coddle at any moment in time. Perhaps more importantly, the building blocks necessary (SAP, SalesForce, Oracle, etc.) for enterprises to even consider such solutions are generally not available.

But as these platforms become more robust, it’s likely that even the largest organizations will be forced to consider using them. SalesForce is a perfect example of large organizations conceding that their mission-critical cloud platform was a better choice than building it on their own from scratch.