By Jack Madden

Most of you know that I’ve spent the last three years focusing on enterprise mobility management. (MDM, MAM, EMM, etc.) Those concepts deal with mobile devices and can be broadly viewed as “like desktop management, but for phones and tablets.” As such they’re great topics for since many of us now have to deal with our desktop users wanting to use mobile devices, and we have to figure out how to accommodate them.

That said, for most of 2014 I’ve also been spending a lot of time getting to know the Mobile App Development Platform (MADP) space, and it’s time we had a conversation about this on

At first you might be thinking, “Why is he talking about app development? is about the management of these apps and devices, not the development of them. Surely this is a better topic for some developer website?”

To be honest that’s what I thought at first too, but after really digging into these products, I realized you can’t truly understand enterprise mobility management without understanding how MADP fits into the picture.

What is MADP, and why should I care?

Everyone knows that mobility is awesome. This awesomeness is primarily experienced when you have apps that are specifically written for a mobile device. (Yeah, you can use many web apps from a smartphone, but people love their phones because of apps—not because they have a browser in their pocket.)

While there are quite literally millions of consumer apps for mobile devices, it’s widely acknowledged that enterprise apps for mobile devices are lagging behind.

Sure, there are a few options for enterprise apps on mobile devices. These days we can find mobile clients for a some of the enterprise applications that we already use; plus the many SaaS offerings that are trying to replace older applications often have mobile clients, too.

But there are just as many enterprise applications for which we don’t have mobile apps.

Up until now our best bets have been to (1) just try the web version on our mobile devices, or (2) use VDI (perhaps with app transformation technologies) to deliver access to those enterprise apps from mobile devices.

We could also look into building a native mobile app from scratch, but that takes a lot of time, money, effort, and new skills.

But today we have another new option: These mobile app development platforms that make it much easier (even for non-developer systems engineers and app owners like us) to build “real” mobile apps.

There’s a lot to talk about around MADP, like, what it actually is, and—especially interesting—how it relates to enterprise mobility management.

Two ways to think about MADP

But first, depending on your viewpoint, there are two ways you could be thinking about this MADP stuff:

(1) A lot of us in our space (the EMM, EUC, desktop virt, and management space that we cover every day here at might just think: Hey, apps are apps. Sure, we’ll worry about some of the important ones like email and file sync and share, but mostly we’re just the delivery mechanism. Besides, at a lot of companies it’s a completely different group that’s responsible for the apps anyway. Our EMM tools can deal with these apps in a lot of different ways—we can use app wrapping to add mobile app management hooks; we can use a corporate app store to get them out to users; we can use MDM to push them to phones—but again, how the app comes to be isn’t really part of the conversation.)

(2) On the other hand, it’s all related to enterprise mobility. We can’t just be concerned about EMM alone (just like we realized we can’t just concentrate on MDM alone). These days, we have to be up on all of enterprise mobility, and that includes MADP, too.

Plus, as we’ve been talking more about how to deliver and transform apps for mobile devices, we’ve been getting more concerned about apps and app development anyway. Look at how our desktop virtualization conversations now include talking about app modernization (through things like the Citrix HDX Mobile, Capriza, and Powwow) and mobile apps in general (through things like email clients, file sync and share, MAM, and all that other EMM stuff).
So I’m here today saying that MADP is just another extension of these things that we’ve already been talking about, and as such, I’ve been paying attention to it.

Seriously, what is MADP?

Now, what is MADP? MADP is actually a term invented by Gartner, and it encompasses a wide range of development technologies and scenarios. Trying to describe exactly what it is or isn’t is hard, and remember I’m coming at this from our enterprise EUC, desktop virtualization, and EMM background (so consider that my disclaimer if you don’t agree with my definition), but here are some common features:

Many MADPs allow you to code mobile apps using familiar web languages, and deploy them to multiple platforms. Some even have code-less, drag and drop integrated development environments that allow non-coders to build apps.

  • At the opposite end of the spectrum, some MADPs are more oriented towards using native code. Hybrid apps and projects like PhoneGap play a big role, too.
  • Being able to reuse code and components is a common theme. Recently several MADPs have been pushing easily-customizable “core” versions of common apps.
  • MADPs typically provide components that can connect your apps to the data they actually need to be functional—databases, feeds, notifications, and so on; along with tools to keep data in sync across mobile connections and deal with offline. Essentially they give you all the plumbing that goes in between your servers and the client app you build. This is sometimes called mobile backend as a service or MBaaS.
  • Some examples of MADP are offerings from big name companies like HP Anywhere and IBM Worklight; companies like Globo (which I’ve covered before); and a wide range of startups like Kony, Appcelerator, Fonemine, and dozens more.

The goal of all these MADPs? Easier-to-build enterprise mobile apps for all! Clearly there’s a lot to like about the concept.

How do MADP and EMM come together?

Now for the cool stuff. There are a lot of ways that MADP and EMM can come together (or collide, depending on your point of view).

First, this is obvious, but they both fall under the enterprise mobility umbrella in general.

Second, app development comes up in a lot of EMM, MDM, and MAM conversations no matter what:

  • For companies that are doing EMM, after they get the basics of email, file syncing, security, and arguing about BYOD out of the way, the next questions that come up (or that will come soon) are invariably about providing more enterprise mobile apps.
  • There are also a lot of companies that aren’t thinking about EMM at all, but that are looking at the mobile app and mobile enablement side of the equation.

Next, there are some things you’re able to do when you have both MADP and EMM tools:

  • You can integrate MAM tools directly into the app development process.
  • App distribution workflows can get a lot easier.
  • Plus there are other cool things, like building EMM policies can take into account both what’s going on outside of the app (on the device) and what’s going on _in_ the app (the content of the apps, etc) to make management much more contextual. It’s the future today!

Finally, some more MADP/EMM points to consider:

  • Many EMM and MADP vendors are starting to announce partnerships.
  • There are a few vendors that actually do both, including Globo and IBM, which is starting to do some basic integrate between MaaS360 and Worklight.
  • Some MADP vendors that are starting to add EMM functionality in on their own. (This is super interesting and worth its own article soon. I think we could even see a bit of competition between EMM vendors and MADP vendors as they battle over enterprise mobility strategy mindshare.)

Hurray MADP!

The bottom line is that for a lot of reasons, MADP is something that we should be paying attention to—and as I said before, it’s all enterprise mobility in general.

Going forward, I’m going to be more active in sharing the great conversations, thoughts, and new things I’m learning about the space. If you’re a vendor that I haven't met yet, get in touch! Or if you’re considering (or not considering) MADP in your environment, or just have an opinion, get in touch, too, or tell us about it in the comments.