Apperian Readying “Enterprise App Store” for iPhones and iPads

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In the 15 months since its launch, Boston-based Apperian has won a reputation as a leading creator of sophisticated business-to-consumer iPhone apps such as Timberland Expedition, Intuit’s TurboTax TaxCaster, and American Greetings’ e-card app. But the startup didn’t set out to be just another mobile app studio: the real vision of founder and CEO Chuck Goldman, a former Apple exec, has always been to bring the power of the iPhone (and now the iPad) to the enterprise and business-to-business worlds. And this summer, his company is going to make the leap.

Apperian won’t stop building custom apps for clients, “because that’s such a great learning environment for us,” says Goldman. But at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in California this June, Apperian will launch a software platform meant to help big companies create, deploy, and manage iPhone and iPad apps on their own. Called the Enterprise Application Services Environment, or EASE, the platform could fill a huge gap left by Apple—namely, the lack of any framework to help companies experiment with internal applications for the iPhone and iPad. It could also put Apperian in position to dominate the nascent market for enterprise iPhone/iPad application development tools.

Timberland Expeditions Splash Screen

Goldman says EASE will supply software components that Apple doesn’t put into its own software development kits—for example, “connectors” that let apps tap into enterprise databases. (Imagine, to use a hypothetical example, a FedEx iPad app that lets drivers access the company’s package-tracking database wirelessly.) But just as important, EASE will provide a way to distribute apps to employee’s iPhones or iPads, and keep them updated once they’re installed.

Right now, there’s no way within Apple’s iTunes ecosystem to do those things. Getting enterprise apps onto iPhones is an entirely manual process—which is obviously a problem for companies that might want to deploy the devices to thousands of employees. Goldman says EASE, which will be sold to companies on a subscription basis for about $2 to $3 per device per month, automates the distribution process by communicating with each employee’s copy of iTunes, in effect creating a kind of enterprise app store.

Once EASE is launched, Goldman says, Apperian will turn its attention to raising a proper Series A funding round. So far, the company has been subsisting on $1.5 million in seed funding from Lexington, MA-based CommonAngels, supplemented by $1.2 million in services revenue from its first year of app-development work. “We’ve been using the services business to go out and learn the market and be talking with the big brands,” says Goldman. “That was always the strategy. Now we’re probably looking to raise $3 million to $5 million, in July or August.”

On Wednesday, Goldman walked me through the details of the EASE platform and the company’s vision for the future of enterprise applications on Apple’s mobile devices. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Xconomy: Most people see the iPhone as a consumer device. What makes it attractive for business?

Chuck Goldman: It’s true, the more enterprise-level, transformative apps haven’t really hit the mainstream yet. When I say transformative, I mean moving the business process to a mobile platform. We’ve started doing that with clients like Progressive in the area of mobile claims processing and roadside assistance with AAA. But the next wave of apps, I think, is going to come from mobilizing sales forces, from internal apps that transform the way workers work. But the first challenge is … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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