Apple and Google continue to fight for dominance in the enterprise app market and yet Microsoft are still being willed on by a committed developer community.

Recent data from Appcelerator has indicated that it may be a two horse race. But which two horses may yet be a surprise to some. 

It’s been clear for some time that the new breed of smart touch-screen devices is going to make a big impression on the enterprise world. From the boardroom to the shop floor this technology is transforming the way in which we do business and fulfil our roles in the workplace.

Warehouse inventory and picking systems, portable sales assistants and personal pay points, interactive brochures or plain and simple meeting aids to share and collaborate on documentation, take notes and run presentations.

The combination of portability and intuitive design is the engine behind what can only be described as a enterprise revolution. Having said that, the fuel for this engine is users desire to transfer their personal experience of such devices from their home life to the workplace.

Despite the protests of many an internal IT team we have been a part of the ‘bring your own device’ era. The workforce want to use their personal devices such as their iPads and smartphones in their working environments.

As laptops and desktops are being replaced at home with tablet computers users are feeling the real benefits of this switch. This same experience is being demanded at work. So much so that they battling with internal politics to use their personal devices.

There are genuine concerns surrounding things like insurance and security. These are often combined with a lack of knowledge in how to implement such technology in an enterprise environment. However, we are now starting to see a shift in attitude. Business leaders appreciate the benefits that the excitement generated by consumer technology has had and are actively seeking ways in which to leverage this excitement in the workplace.

Reduction in frustration levels and increased employee satisfaction mean greater productivity. It really is a simple equation.

However, the question remains. How can we take advantage of this shift in the landscape? What technology should we engage with and how?

Divided industry opinion

The first people that many business leaders turn to to help them to make technology decisions are their developers of choice. This might be an internal team, freelancers, or an agency. As always with any new and expanding technology there is a degree of confusion as to the route to take and so the opinion of the developers is often enough to sway a customer one way or the other.

The developer community can therefore be key to making and braking a platform which is why we have had stories break in recent months from RIM and Microsoft as they seek to draw developers to their cause. Both have been offering incentives to developers to develop for their platforms. This is what makes a recent survey from Appcelerator so interesting.

Appcelerator surveyed their developer community to gauge the sentiment surrounding the development platform of choice for enterprise apps.

In a similar survey at the end of 2011 the result was split. 44% of developers said that their development platform of choice was Google’s Android. Exactly the same percentage, 44%, said that their platform of choice was Apple’s iOS.

This split highlighted the internal conflict that many developers were facing. On the one hand Android’s openness is appealing to the development community as a whole. It feels like the right approach to most of them and when considering the enterprise market it offers a lot more freedom to attempt to comply with existing IT policies, especially when considering the delicate matter of security.

On the other hand, the consumer market dominance of the iOS ecosystem meant that consumers who download and use apps; largely Apple users, expect the same experience when they interact with technology in the workplace. Anything less feels ill thought through, cheep, and ultimately serves to only add to the users frustration.

Apple strides ahead

While is was widely anticipated that Android would be the leading platform in the enterprise market this simply hasn’t yet materialised. And, if the recent results from the Appcelerator survey are anything to go by, iOS may soon transfer its app dominance from the consumer market to the enterprise market.

Developers priorities have now shifted and only 38% highlighted Android as their platform of choice while iOS had jumped to 53%.

We really should have seen this coming. The consumer market dominance of Apple gives them a clear ‘in’ into the enterprise market. Every CEO in the land has a shiny iPad. Probably for the first time in IT history, change is being driven by the people at the top of an organisation rather than those in IT depts. Boardrooms everywhere echo with cries of, ‘how can I project my iPad?’ And ‘how can I connect my iPad to the shared network space?’

Combine this phenomena with the subtle advertising of Apple who consistently feature clever productivity apps and their devices being used in enterprise situations and you have a clear move from Apple to lay claim to the enterprise space dominated for so long by Microsoft.

Watch out for Windows

Where are Microsoft in this picture? It has been the dominant force in the enterprise marketplace for many years. However, it has been a late arrival to the smart device space and while Windows Mobile 7 showed great promise it never achieved the traction in the market that was needed for it to be deemed a success.

Windows has a huge developer base that was eager to get involved with the platform but the design and price point of the devices proved to be an issue for the consumer.

With the imminent arrival of Windows 8 the developer community is still hoping that the platform will take off. This is obviously great news for the enterprise powerhouse. 33% of developers surveyed said that they would consider developing apps for Windows 8.

This means that 33% of developers are considering the platform even though it has a minimal user base. Developers seem to want Windows to succeed. While Microsoft are late to the party they have a captive audience in their long term enterprise customers. Also, developers across the world who are embedded in Microsoft technologies are eager to see their skills put to use on the latest devices.

Smart devices in enterprise are on the rise

The use of smart devices in the enterprise scenario is continuing to rise. Users are bringing expectations from their experiences with their devices as consumers into the workplace.

Apple is feeding this by quietly positioning itself in the enterprise space and, not so quietly, in the education space. Microsoft is looking to make this a battle between Windows and iOS at the expense of Google Android.

If the sentiment of the development community is anything to go by then it has a really strong chance of making this happen.